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Dozens of cases of ‘double mutant’ COVID-19 variant confirmed in B.C.

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British Columbia health officials confirmed more than three dozen cases of a COVID-19 variant first detected in India that’s being looked at as a possible contributor to rampant spread of the virus in that country.

The Ministry of Health said the province had identified 39 cases of the B.1617 variant as of April 4, but that it hadn’t been flagged as either a variant of concern or variant under investigation at that point.

Read more: Ottawa consulting on stricter border measures, won’t stop flights from India

B.1617 has now been designated a variant of interest, and the “BCCDC and the BCCDC Public Health Lab are reviewing genetic sequencing information and linking to case details and will be able to provide an update on the number and nature of these cases later this week,” a ministry spokesperson said in an email.

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The B.C. CDC has reported at least 11 flights from India with COVID-19 exposures since the beginning of April.

Earlier Wednesday, Quebec confirmed its first case of the variant in the central region of the province known as Mauricie-Centre-du-Quebec.

The variant is being described as a “double mutant” due to a pair of mutations that the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare says may confer “immune escape and increased infectivity.”

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India has reported more than 250,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily this week and doctors are investigating whether the variant could be part of the reason.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the variant had not been officially designated as a ‘variant of concern’ but added that “all cases of COVID-19 are of concern.”

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Dix said the province also has concerns with the implementation of federal quarantine measures.

Read more: Seven COVID-19 deaths, 862 new cases as B.C. sets another new hospitalization record

“We think more can be done in ensuring that the quarantine is not only enforced, but that people are supported in what can be a very challenging quarantine.”

In an interview with Global News Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government was looking at additional measures to protect international borders, but would not restrict flights from India.

The Ministry of Health said it has recently changed its surveillance strategy to ensure it has the lab capacity to sequence and identify emerging COVID-19 variants.

With files from the Canadian Press

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