A "double mutant" COVID-19 variant first discovered in India has now been identified in British Columbia.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has now classified B.1.617 as a “variant of interest” in the province. In the daily coronavirus press briefing Thursday (April 22), Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters that the variant has been identified in about 40 cases at "different times over the last month-and-a-half to two months."
B.C.'s top doctor added that a number of the cases were directly related to travel from India, while others were in people health officials did not link with travel to the country.
"Internationally and nationally this has not been identified as a variant of concern. It is now in Canada a variant of interest," she clarified.
"There are many clusters or groups of this variant, along with every other variant that we see."
Henry added that health officials are following the variant closely, which is why it has been listed as a "variant of interest." Further, she said they support the federal government limiting travel from India.
Canada eyes policy on travel from India due to massive COVID surge
The federal government is looking into flights arriving from India due to a massive surge of COVID-19 cases ravaging that country, Canada's top public health doctor said Wednesday as at least one province urged Ottawa to tighten the border.
The government generally believes that limiting travel from specific countries can only go so far, said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, but India may present a special case.
"We will be doing further analysis because it's an emerging situation, not just because of the variant of interest at this point but because they have unfortunately a very massive resurgence in that country," she said. "We will be doing that risk assessment again, and using the data that we have now collected at the border to inform our next steps."
According to the Canadian government, there have been 35 flights from India with at least one case of COVID-19 that have arrived in Canada in the last two weeks.
"The B.1.617 or “double mutant” Indian variant carries two mutations including the L452R and E484Q which have been seen separately before in other variants but never together in one variant," explains Forbes.
India is massive — it's the world's second-most populous country with nearly 1.4 billion people — and its size presents extraordinary challenges to fighting COVID-19.
Some 2.7 million vaccine doses are given daily, but that's still less than 10 per cent of its people who've gotten their first shot. Overall, India has confirmed 15.9 million cases of infection, the second-highest after the United States, and 184,657 deaths.
With files from the Canadian Press.