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COVID-19 variants could ruin B.C. Spring Break plans: Dr. Henry

People being urged to stay local

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has given some hope for families planning for spring break March 22-Apr. 1 in saying that efforts are being made to plan strategies to make it more enjoyable for young people, without offering any specifics.

She urged people to “stay local” but offered some hope that with the roll out of vaccines, “we may be in a different position then.”

One note of concern expressed by Henry was the continuing appearance of variants, such as the U.K. B117 variant, of which there are 95, and the South Africa B131, of which there are 25, and two cases of variant from Nigeria, one of which is still being investigated.

Henry said enhanced screening has picked up 16 more cases of variants of concern in recent days, for a total of 116 cases, of which nine are “active.”  However, only about 75% to 80% of positive tests are currently screened, Henry said, adding that it then takes a number of days to do full genome sequencing to find out if they are U.K., South Africa or other variants.

She also said Fraser Health has been doing extensive testing for the variant at seven schools where historic cases involving variants were identified. She said the enhanced screening found six more possible variant cases: five among students and one case in a staff member.

“We’ll have more information as the investigation continues,” she promised, noting that by the end of next week 100% of positive COVID-19 cases will be screened for variants.

The concern about variants and what that might mean for B.C.’s pandemic comes as the province prepares to launch Phase two of its vaccine roll-out plan.

Monday, B.C. health officials are expected to announce the next steps of the roll out for community-based seniors over the age of 80, Indigenous elders over the age of 65 and other individuals not yet vaccinated who live or work in congregate care settings or with seniors.