Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the province’s COVID-19 vaccine plans during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the province’s COVID-19 vaccine plans during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

B.C.’s top doctor says Nigerian variant identified in the province

Of 47 cases of COVID-19 variants identified in the province, one is believed to be linked to Nigeria

British Columbia’s top doctor says 47 cases of COVID-19 variants have been identified in the province, including one believed to be linked to Nigeria.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says 29 cases are related to a variant first identified in the United Kingdom, 17 are associated with South Africa and the latest one involves a person who travelled to Nigeria and returned to the Interior Health region.

Henry says lab teams in B.C. are working with their counterparts across Canada and internationally to get a better understanding of whether the Nigerian variant that has been identified elsewhere is also easily transmissible or causes more severe illness.

She says variants of concern do transit more quickly and cause more severe illness though it’s reassuring that only three cases were recently identified among 3,099 cases that were tested for the variants.

Henry reported 445 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 72,750 cases in the province so far, along with 10 more deaths, totalling 1,288 fatalities since the start of the pandemic.

She urged residents to maintain restrictions on gatherings during the Family Day long weekend, which coincides with Lunar New Year celebrations, but says colder weather may reduce travel, meaning “Mother Nature is going to be on our side.”

“We are trending in the right direction, pushing our curve down, but slowly. And we need to ensure our success sticks, which means staying the course with our layers of protection and continuing to follow all of the public health restrictions and guidance.”

Henry says first doses of COVID-19 vaccines in long-term care and assisted-living facilities have meant a dramatic drop in outbreaks at facilities across the province.

She says second doses still must be administered to most residents and staff but there’s clear evidence that first doses have slowed down transmission of the virus.

Henry says an increasing number of vaccine doses are expected to arrive in B.C. next week and onward after a slowdown in deliveries.

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