VANCOUVER SUN-An asymptomatic traveller who arrived in Vancouver from London 12 days ago has been confirmed as the first carrier of the new, more infectious COVID variant into B.C.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed on Sunday that the passenger on Air Canada Flight 855 arrived on Dec. 15 without symptoms and tested positive on Dec. 19 (while in mandatory two-week self isolation). That person is on Vancouver Island.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control first reported that COVID-19 flight exposure on Dec. 21, saying it affected rows 34-40.
“Whole genome sequencing at the BCCDC identified this as the same as the variant seen in the U.K.,” said Henry, who anticipated more variant cases in B.C.
The BCCDC is reviewing all tests from people recently returned from travel to the U.K.
The same day (Dec. 19) the Vancouver Island resident tested positive, another Air Canada flight arrived in Vancouver from London with a COVID exposure. This impacted rows 4-8 and 24-30, suggesting two cases.
There were also COVID-positive passengers onboard Air Canada flights arriving in Vancouver on Dec. 10 (rows 35-42) and Nov. 12 (rows 18-24), according to BCCDC records.
Air Canada was the only airline flying passengers into Vancouver from the U.K. before the Canada-wide ban on inbound U.K. flights was put into effect until at least Jan. 6.
The more infectious COVID-19 variant was reported in the U.K. two weeks ago and has led to many countries restricting flights arriving from the island nation.
On Saturday, Public Health Ontario reported Canada’s first mutant cases in a couple from the Durham region, east of Toronto, that had been in recent contact with someone who returned from the U.K.
There was also a new variant case reported in Ottawa on Sunday.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says the new variant may be more transmissible, but has not proven to be more dangerous or to impact vaccine effectiveness.
According to a study released Sunday by the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the variant is 56 per cent more transmissible than other strains.
The first flight exposure in B.C. was on Royal Dutch Airlines Flight 681 on March 7 from Amsterdam to Vancouver. Since then, there have been at least 160 exposures on international flights arriving in Vancouver.
B.C. data released on Thursday shows 8,865 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C., of which 341 are in hospital (including 78 in intensive care.)
To date, 808 British Columbians have died form the virus, and 9,732 are under public health monitoring following exposure to a positive case.
The U.S. now requires anyone arriving from the U.K. to offer proof of a COVID-19 negative test result, while the Ontario government is calling for mandatory COVID testing for new arrivals at airports and is seeking government funding.
— with files from Bloomberg and Canadian Press