Windsor Star

CANADA HAS IDENTIFIED WHAT'S BELIEVED TO BE ITS FIRST CASE OF THE COVID-19 VARIANT B.1.617, WHICH WAS FIRST SEQUENCED IN INDIA AND IS SUSPECTED OF FUELLING THE PANDEMIC SURGE IN THAT COUNTRY.

Vaccinated Quebec patient first in Canada

- RENÉ BRUEMMER

MONTREAL • Canada has identified what's believed to be its first case of the B.1.617 variant of COVID-19 that originated in India and is suspected of fuelling the pandemic surge in that country.

The case of the double mutant variant has been identified in a patient in the Haute-mauricie region of Quebec, north of Troisriviè­res, officials with Quebec's public health laboratory confirmed Wednesday.

The patient tested positive for COVID-19 about two weeks ago, and a sample was sent to the provincial lab for genetic sequencing to determine whether it was among the variants of concern. The patient was vaccinated two months ago.

Under Quebec protocol, the results for anyone who has been vaccinated and later tests positive for COVID-19 are sent for genetic sequencing tests to identify possible variants.

“We have a confirmed case of B.1.617 in Hautemauri­cie,” said Michel Roger, head of the Quebec's public health laboratory.

Further informatio­n on the patient, including their condition, was not available. Officials said they are not certain how the variant was introduced into Quebec.

The variant is considered a double mutant because it has two mutations: E484Q and L425R, both which may be more resistant to vaccines.

With more than 66,000 confirmed variant cases in Canada now, 96 per cent of them are the B.1.1.7, which originated in the U.K. That is twice the number of confirmed variant cases just one week ago.

In a bid to keep even more variants from entering Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday the use of quarantine hotels for internatio­nal air travellers will continue until at least May 21, as will testing requiremen­ts for air and land-border arrivals.

He defended the government against criticism it didn't move fast enough to enforce quarantine­s for travellers, but said they are considerin­g additional measures such as stopping flights from India.

“We are continuing to look at more and I have asked our officials to look carefully at, for example, what the U.K. has done very recently on suspending flights from India,” he said.

Although Canada's borders are officially closed, thousands of people, mostly Canadians, still cross into the country every week. Health Canada says about one per cent of internatio­nal air travellers are testing positive for COVID-19 during their threeday quarantine, but can't yet provide data for how many tested positive after 10 days.

India has reported more than 250,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily this week and doctors are investigat­ing whether the B.1.617 variant may be part of the reason.

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