Multiple Canadians have tested positive for the U.K. variant of COVID-19, which is believed to be more contagious.
On Saturday, Ontario confirmed the first two people in Canada had contracted the recently discovered strain of the illness, which was first identified in Britain.
The following day, two other Canadians tested positive for the same variant.
Why is it different?
The recently discovered U.K. variant was first confirmed by the British government on December 14.
According to BBC News, experts in the country believe it may be up to 70% more contagious, although there is currently no evidence to suggest it is any more deadly or causes more severe illness.
While health officials believe that existing COVID-19 vaccines — such as the Pfizer-BioNTech candidate — should be able to deal with the strain, others have warned that it could evolve to avoid the vaccine if we wait too long to take action.
To date, it’s been found in European countries, such as Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands, as well as farther away like Japan and Canada.
It’s not the only COVID-19 variant that has been identified, either.
Over the last few weeks, different ones have been discovered in South Africa and Nigeria, as well.
When did the new strain come to Canada?
On December 26, Ontario announced that two people in the province had tested positive for the U.K. strain.
They became the first people in Canada to officially be diagnosed with this particular variant.
While it was originally reported the two people had no known travel history, it has since been confirmed that they’d been in contact with a recent traveller from Britain.
A third case was confirmed in Ottawa just one day later. The individual had recently travelled from the U.K.
On the same day, B.C. reported that one person had tested positive. They had recently taken a flight from London (England) to Vancouver, according to Global News.
What are health experts saying?
On December 21, Dr. Kerry Bowman, professor of bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto, told Narcity that the variant may be already in the country.
"It’s been circulating heavily in Britain," he said, noting that there was still "plenty of travel" within the country and throughout the EU.
He said the decision to stop travel between the U.K. and Canada was taken too late.
It was a message backed by Dr. Colin Furness, assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
He told Narcity that the Canadian government’s original three-day ban was “cowardly” and said such a short ban would be unlikely to have an impact.
“We need a sustained ban on travel, but that takes political courage,” Furness said last week.
Since then, Canada’s ban on U.K. travel has been extended until January 6, 2021.