P.E.I. reports discovery of COVID-19 U.K. variant
HALIFAX -- Prince Edward Island has announced the detection of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant (aka the U.K. variant) in the province – the first of its kind on the island.
On Saturday, the province held a press conference to provide an update on its COVID-19 situation.
While no new cases were announced – active cases remain at two – a previously reported case of COVID-19 from Feb. 4 was discovered to be the B.1.1.7 variant. The case involves a man in his 20s who recently returned from international travel.
P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said the variant case came as no surprise.
"We've been bracing for this reality," said King. "This news is not unexpected – in fact, we're the last province to confirm a case connected to the U.K. variant," said King.
P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, noted the man did exactly what was required of him. Following arrival in the province, he immediately went into self-isolation at a location separate and apart from others and has had no close contacts while in self-isolation.
As of Saturday, the province says there is no indication that the variants strain of COVID-19 has spread within the province
A REMINDER TO STAY VIGILANT
Dr. Morrison reiterated that the arrival of the variant was to be expected and stressed the severity of the strain.
"It has been estimated that the variants are between 30 and 80 per cent more contagious – meaning that if it is not contained, they will result in exponential spread," said Morrison. "If we let our guard down, we are inviting COVID-19 to gain the upper hand and further disrupt our families, our communities and our province."
Dr. Morrison said that since the beginning of the pandemic, the province's strategy has been to try to keep the virus out of the province; noting that when the province has had cases, health officials have detected them early through testing to limit transmission.
"With the arrival of the variant, we will be more resolute in our efforts to protect islanders from these highly contagious strains of COVID-19,” said Morrison. “The detection of the variant confirms that our surveillance and public health measures are working."
TESTING PASSENGERS ON FEBRUARY FLIGHT
Dr. Morrison noted that out of an abundance of caution, health officials are following up with everyone who was on an evening flight on Feb. 1 from Montreal to Charlottetown. As part of standard testing and isolation protocols, many of these individuals have been tested within the past week and are all following an isolation or modified isolation protocol.
On Saturday afternoon, several passengers were scheduled to be tested by the province's mobile testing unit, in addition to passengers tested on Saturday morning. Morrison said passengers who were tested on Saturday morning tested negative.
"Paramedics involved in testing of the positive case have been tested and are negative. The screeners at the airport have tested negative," said Dr. Morrison, who added four passengers – who have since left the province – are being contacted and advised to be tested.
Testing is still being arranged for three additional individuals.
"This is a great reminder for us not to take our fortunate and unique P.E.I. situation for granted," said King. "As we have seen in other provinces, things can change quickly. To keep doing the things that we need to be doing is of utmost importance."
COVID ALERT APP
Canada's COVID-19 Alert app is available in Prince Edward Island.
The app, which can be downloaded through the Apple App Store or Google Play, notifies users if they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Prince Edward Island provides a list of possible COVID-19 symptoms on their website, which include:
- new or worsening cough
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- sore throat
- runny nose, sneezing, congestion
- muscle/joint/body aches
- feeling unwell/unusual tiredness
- acute loss of sense of smell or taste
Other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea have been reported, but typically along with other COVID-19 symptoms, and may be seen more often in children.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Heidi Petracek