First case of South African COVID-19 variant found in B.C.

British Columbia has confirmed its first case of the mutated form of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 that originated in South Africa, as well as a fourth case of the mutation that originated in the U.K., health officials announced Thursday.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry shared news during a live briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the South African variant was found in a person who had not travelled or had contact with a traveller.

“It is, of course, concerning that we don’t know where this arose,” Henry said. “However, at the moment, it does not appear to have spread in the community beyond the person that we’ve identified.”

The fourth case of the U.K. variant found in B.C. is linked to travel and is not connected to the first three cases. Those three cases are linked to a different traveller, who recently returned to Vancouver Island from London and subsequently spread the coronavirus to two other residents of their household.

Both the case of the South African variant and the fourth case of the U.K. variant were detected in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, Henry said.

“We do have concerns that some of these variants, particularly in the U.K., may allow the virus to spread more easily,” the provincial health officer said. “That is why it is important for us to continue to monitor and to do the whole genome sequencing that we’ve been doing in terms of surveillance for these variants.”

It’s also why British Columbians must continue to follow public health orders and take measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in their communities.