New variant emerges in B.C. as health officials warn against weekend travel

SARS-CoV-2 variant from Nigeria has one case in B.C., in the Interior Health region, but behaviour of new strain still unknown

Ahead of the family day long weekend, health officials are asking British Columbians to stay local and only gather with their own household, per public health orders.

The province has 445 new cases of COVID-19 and another 10 deaths associated with the disease over the past 24 hours.

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In the Interior Health region, there have been 44 new cases of COVID-19.

Elsewhere in the province, there were 135 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 218 in Fraser Health, 15 in Vancouver Island Health, 30 in Northern Health and three cases among those who normally reside outside Canada.

The province now has 4,747 active cases with 226 in hospital and 61 of those patients in critical care.

Another 7,035 people are under active public health monitoring due to exposure to confirmed cases.

To date, 67,008 have recovered from COVID-19 while 1,288 have died.

Daily vaccinations are up some, with 3,095 given over the past 24 hours, following days of around 2,000 doses administered due to limited supply.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she expects Pfizer vaccine shipments to resume at a much higher level, with a "significant bump in the coming weeks," she said.

To date, the province has administered 162,982 doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, with 17,562 second doses given.

Henry said with this coming Family Day long weekend it's important that B.C.'s progress in slowing transmission is not put in jeopardy.

B.C.'s top doctor also advised that a new variant has been detected in the province, adding to the list of variants of concern.

The new variant was first identified in Nigeria and has been spotted in one person in the Interior Health region. The person is isolating and Henry said there has been no transmission detected. The case is travel related.

Henry said it's not yet known if the strain means increased transmissibility or cause of harsher illness, as seen in some other variants.

To date, the province has seen 46 variant cases, 29 of which are the U.K. variant and 17 of the South Africa variant.

She said the BCCDC has been investigating, conducting a point prevalence assessment, screening more than 3,000 positive cases from Jan. 30 to Feb. 5 and finding just three variant cases.

"This is reassuring," she said. "It tells us we don't have high levels of transmission in our communities."

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