The new variant, first detected in the U.K. and confirmed to be present in British Columbia, is believed to be significantly more contagious.
Read more: Coronavirus: List of B.C. school exposures
“We remain concerned about the situation in B.C. schools, particularly in districts like Surrey where we have very high levels of transmission in the community,” Surrey Teachers Association president Matt Westphal told Global News, Thursday.
“In fact, we’re more concerned now, with the new variant of COVID.”
Close to 3,000 people have signed a petition calling on the province to extend B.C.’s winter break.
Along with tougher restrictions, the U.K. government has extended the winter break for millions of British students to Jan.11, though most primary schools will start up Monday as initially planned.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday that B.C. has no plans for a similar delay.
“We thankfully are not in that position and we are watching very carefully for this variant here — but we have not yet seen a lot of spread in particular,” she said.
“We pulled together a school task force to learn from what we have been through in the last few weeks and to pull things together and to re-establish that relationship and the communications, the tools that we need … so we have engaged in that process and people are preparing to make sure that we can go back to school safely next week.”
In its Dec. 23 modelling update, the province said there had been COVID-19 exposures at 526 B.C. schools, more than half of them in the Fraser Health region. Outbreaks have been declared in four schools.
However, the province maintains that despite the scores of exposure events, actual transmission in a school setting has been rare.
About 10 per cent of cases in the Vancouver Coastal Health region resulted in transmission, according to the province, while about 12.8 per cent of cases in Fraser Health resulted in potential transmission.
The opposition BC Liberals say that’s not stopped parents from seeking alternatives such as online learning.
“Parents would like to make a personal decision about kids going back to school,” Liberal Education Critic Jackie Tegart said.
“I think they have that right. But we need to provide options for them.”View link »