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COVID-19: Concerns about a 3rd wave in B.C. as cases of B.1.1.7 variant remain high

Click to play video: 'Growing concern over B.C. variant case numbers' Growing concern over B.C. variant case numbers
The increase in cases of coronavirus variants in B.C. Is causing concern over the potential for a 'third wave' of the pandemic. Ted Chernecki reports – Mar 22, 2021

There are concerns Monday that B.C. may be heading into a third wave of COVID-19 cases as numbers continue to rise across the province.

As of Friday, March 19, the average daily case numbers in B.C. were at 559, the highest since Jan. 12.

Click to play video: 'Variant cases increasing along with ‘third wave’ concerns in B.C.' Variant cases increasing along with ‘third wave’ concerns in B.C.
Variant cases increasing along with ‘third wave’ concerns in B.C – Mar 22, 2021

Active cases of 5,207 were at the highest since Jan. 14.

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The 292 people in hospital were the highest that total had been since Feb. 2 and the 85 people in intensive care were at the highest number since Dec. 18, 2020.

Click to play video: 'B.C. reports 737 new cases of COVID-19, and 2 additional deaths' B.C. reports 737 new cases of COVID-19, and 2 additional deaths
B.C. reports 737 new cases of COVID-19, and 2 additional deaths – Mar 19, 2021

The cases in long-term care homes have decreased, which officials say is a sign the vaccinations are working but the concern around the variant cases remains high.

“What we are watching very carefully is, are we seeing the variant drive transmission, or are we just seeing it replace the viruses that were circulating previously?” B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday.

Read more: B.C. reports 737 new cases of COVID-19, highest daily total since Jan. 7

“What we’ve learned over these last couple weeks is that it’s mostly replacement. That’s not to say that that’s not going to change if we’re not careful. We do know we have to be more meticulous about preventing transmission because this one tends to be easier for somebody to spread it to others.

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“What that can mean is that we’ll have to be more cautious for longer if our rates stay as high as they are, and making sure that we get more people protected as quickly as possible and try and break those chains of transmission.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 third wave in B.C.?' COVID-19 third wave in B.C.?
COVID-19 third wave in B.C.? – Mar 22, 2021

In B.C., the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K., is seeing the greatest number of new cases, Henry said Thursday.

“The proportion of the cases that we’re seeing is now around somewhere between 10 to 12 per cent of our cases every day are now this U.K. variant,” she said. “We are still seeing very small numbers of the South African (variant), sporadic, mostly related to travel. We’ve had one cluster of this Brazilian variant that is concerning but we’re managing it very carefully with Vancouver Coastal (Health).”

As of March 21, B.C. has 1,094 cases of B.1.1.7, second only to Ontario and Alberta. B.C. has 41 cases of B.1.351, first identified in South Africa, and 65 cases of the P.1 variant, identified in Brazil.

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Click to play video: 'COVID-19: what to look for in possible third wave in B.C.' COVID-19: what to look for in possible third wave in B.C.
COVID-19: what to look for in possible third wave in B.C – Mar 21, 2021

Dr. Caroline Colijn, a math professor and Canada 150 research chair at Simon Fraser University, told Global News Monday that whether we see a third wave of cases will likely depend on our actions to combat the spread of COVID-19, but the concern around the variant cases remains high.

“I think that’s the biggest worry in the short term as we try to roll out vaccines as effectively and as quickly as we can,” she said.

Click to play video: 'B.C.’s front line and essential workers move to the front of the line' B.C.’s front line and essential workers move to the front of the line
B.C.’s front line and essential workers move to the front of the line – Mar 18, 2021

“We’re probably not going to win the race between vaccination and the B.1.1.7 variant and partly that’s because it’s here now, it’s already established and rising and it has a higher transmission rate, which makes it harder to control and so I think that’s the concern over the next few months.”

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Read more: B.C. COVID-19 vaccination information — Contacts, timelines and what you need to know

Colijn said she thinks the rise in variant cases is likely from people still gathering indoors or at workplaces as that is how the virus spreads more easily.

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As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on there is an urgent need for mental health support – Mar 19, 2021

“Mass screening and wider testing of people without symptoms could be powerful, especially people at high risk, so contacts of cases or high-contact workplaces because we know this virus can spread before people feel sick, so if we wait until people have symptoms and then test, we missed a lot of their infectious period,” she added.

“We need to prevent transmission. Stick to the guidelines, get tested, push for testing if you’re at risk of exposure, if you’ve been exposed but act on those tests.”

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