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Will the new U.K. coronavirus variant be found in Quebec?

Click to play video: 'Is the new coronavirus variant in Quebec?' Is the new coronavirus variant in Quebec?
WATCH ABOVE: Is the new coronavirus variant in Quebec? – Dec 28, 2020

As cases of the U.K.’s coronavirus variant are being detected in other parts of the country health experts in Quebec believe it’s only a matter of time before it’s found there as well.

Those looking into the new COVID-19 mutation, which was first identified in the U.K., include Dr. Jörg Hermann Fritz, an associate professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at McGill University in Montreal.

“The new B.1.1.7 variant of SARS CoV-2 is a variant, not a strain,” he told Global News from outside his office. “It spreads quicker, so the likelihood that people get infected seems to be higher.”

Read more: Coronavirus cases top 2K in Ontario, Quebec, as more U.K. variant detected

At least five cases have been detected between Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, amplifying fears that Quebec would find it there eventually.

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“Well there’s always a possibility that it’s already here,” explained Dr. Christopher Labos, a Montreal cardiologist who also has a degree in epidemiology. “Remember this variant was probably circulating even before it was identified in England.”

Fritz said it’s hard to know if the variant is at least partly responsible for recent rise in cases in the province because most COVID-19 tests don’t look for mutations.

Click to play video: '1 case of COVID-19 U.K. variant identified in Alberta' 1 case of COVID-19 U.K. variant identified in Alberta
1 case of COVID-19 U.K. variant identified in Alberta – Dec 28, 2020
“Testing is done [to find out] are you infected or not,” he explained. “It doesn’t analyze the full genomic sequence of the virus.”
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He added that because health authorities are testing for this and other mutations, they will eventually catch it — if it’s in Quebec.

Fritz said he has some concerns, but that he’s optimistic.

“It is still very likely that the vaccines that are currently approved in Canada and elsewhere, that it still protects against this virus,” he said.

Read more: South Korea reports first cases of U.K. coronavirus variant

Fritz pointed out that because the virus constantly mutates, and needs a human host to do so, the best way to stop the mutations is to not get infected.

“The sooner we can protect ourselves and lower the transmission in the human population the better it is,” he stressed.

Labos noted that if this variant becomes dominant it would be a concern.

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Coronavirus: Growing calls to test incoming passengers at airports – Dec 28, 2020

“You know, the more infectious it is, the more people get sick, the more people might land in hospital, and that would obviously be a bad thing,” he explained.

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Labos said that if the new variant does dominate though, it wouldn’t necessarily change much for the public, and that what happens is largely on people.

“The infectiousness of a virus depends not just on the biological properties of the virus but also on our behaviour,” he stated, pointing out that staying home, wearing masks and washing hands are the best protection.

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