The Public Health Agency of Canada confirmed late Friday night that the country’s first case of the South African variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Alberta.
On Friday afternoon, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced on Twitter that the province had detected its first case of that variant of COVID-19.
She said the person with the illness is in quarantine and “there’s no evidence at this time that the virus has spread to others.”
“I know any new case is concerning, but we are actively monitoring for these variants and working to protect the public’s health,” Hinshaw said.
She added that current pandemic measures in place in Alberta are “protective against this variant.”
Craig Jenne, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Calgary, told Global News that as far as he knows, researchers still have much to learn about this variant.
“These new variants are pretty common,” he said. “This is how viruses work, so no real surprise.
“It appears it is essentially impossible to keep it ‘out’ of Canada/Alberta.”
Jenne said he has yet to see any evidence that people become more ill with the South African variant “but it does appear to be easier to spread.”
“The good news is information from Pfizer suggests the current vaccine will continue to protect from this variant, though this is using blood from a small number of people and experiments are essentially done in petri dishes and not in people,” he said.
“Definitely something to keep our eye on but no need to panic and it does not yet require a change to our vaccine strategy.”
On Friday, a spokesperson for Alberta Health told Global News there have been four cases of the U.K. variant of COVID-19 detected in the province.
Tom McMillan said in all four cases, the U.K. variant was detected in returning travellers.
“At this point, there is no evidence that there has been any further spread.”
Latest COVID-19 numbers in Alberta
Alberta reported 1,183 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, along with 24 additional deaths from the disease.
As of Friday afternoon, there were 851 people in hospital with COVID-19, 135 of whom were being treated in intensive care.
The new cases come one day after Premier Jason Kenney announced the COVID-19 public health restrictions brought in in December would be extended.
Current restrictions put in place in mid-December include a ban on in-person dining and limit grocery and retail stores to 15 per cent of their fire capacity. These restrictions, which went into place on Dec. 13, also forced the closure of personal services like gyms and hair salons.
Other measures, which ban both indoor and outdoor gatherings and mandate masks province-wide, were implemented on Dec. 8.
All of these restrictions will be in place until at least Jan. 21, Kenney said.
On Thursday, the premier also announced that Albertans students would head back to in-person schooling on Monday as planned.
The premier originally said he would speak to the media Friday with an update on the province’s vaccination rollout. However, the premier’s office said Friday morning there would be no vaccine update because of shifting numbers. The government wanted to hold off until they have the correct information. The premier is expected to speak about vaccines next week.
Alberta Health confirmed Friday that a shipment of 13,000 Pfizer vaccine doses mentioned by the health minister earlier this week has arrived in Alberta and will be distributed as soon as possible.
Active cases of COVID-19 sat at 13,628 province-wide Friday afternoon, up from 13,298 active cases Thursday.
The 24 additional deaths bring Alberta’s death toll from COVID-19 to 1,241.
Twelve of the deaths were in the Edmonton zone, nine were in the Calgary zone, one was in the North zone, one was in the South zone and one was in the Central zone.
The death in the North zone was a woman in her 60s. The case included comorbidities, Alberta Health said.
The death in the South zone was a woman in her 60s. Comorbidities are unknown at this time.
A man in his 80s in the Central zone also died. The case included comorbidities.
Three of the deaths in the Edmonton zone were linked to the outbreak at Benevolence Care Centre: a man in his 70s, a woman in her 80s and a woman in her 90s. All three deaths included comorbidities. A woman in her 80s from Capital Care Strathcona also died. Her case included comorbidities. A woman in her 90s from Rosedale Estates also passed. This case included comorbidities. A man in his 70s linked to the outbreak at Kiwanis Place Lodge died. His case included comorbidities. A woman in her 80s from the Chartwell St. Albert Retirement Residence died. Her case included comorbidities. A woman in her 50s, man in his 70s and man in his 80s also died. All of these cases included comorbidities. A man in his 40s and woman in her 70s with unknown comorbidities also passed away.
In the Calgary zone, a woman in her 60s linked to the outbreak at Clifton Manor died. This case included comorbidities.A woman in her 90s from Bow View Manor died. The case included comorbidities. A woman in her 100s from Carewest George Boyack also passed. Her case included comorbidities. A man in his 80s from Bethany Airdrie died. His case included comorbidities. A woman in her 40s, man in his 60s and woman in her 80s from the Calgary zone also died. All cases included comorbidities. A man in his 60s with unknown comorbidities also died, as well as a woman in her 60s with no known comorbidities.