A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. finds its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

B.C. has recorded 536 new COVID-19 cases and seven deaths over the past 24 hours, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday (Jan. 14).

By health authority, that breaks down to 102 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 253 in Fraser Health, 115 in Interior Health, 21 in Island Health, 45 in Northern Health. Six of the new cases are epi-linked. B.C.’s death toll from the virus is now at 1,038.

There have been a total of 59,608 cases of COVID-19 in B.C. since the pandemic began, of which 4,624 are currently active. There are 362 people in hospital with the virus, 74 of whom are in ICU. A total of 52,605 people have recovered while just over 7,300 are under public health monitoring.

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

She said that there have now been four confirmed cases of the U.K. variant, which has been considered more transmissible, in B.C. Three of those cases were linked to one specific traveller, while the last was linked to another traveller.

The province has also found one case of the South African variant of the virus. That case is not linked to any known travel, something that Henry said is concerning. The province is conducting whole genome sequencing, both randomly and with a targeted approach, to find and isolate people who have brought that variant into B.C. So far, all cases of both variants were found in Vancouver Coastal Health.

“We don’t know how that person got [the South African variant] yet, but I’m confident there’s not spread from that person to others,” Henry said.

“We don’t believe that either of those variants are causing a lot of spread of illness in our communities yet but we are not by any means out of the woods.”

Henry said she was “saddened and disturbed” after hearing reports of racism and discrimination against the Cowichan Tribes as the Indigenous community battles a COVID outbreak.

“This type of racism cannot be tolerated,” she said. “This must stop. Racism has no place in our society, in our communities here in British Columbia and we must all take the time to speak up and speak out.”

READ MORE: Racism towards Cowichan Tribes in COVID-19 fight denounced by federal minister

On the topic of interprovincial travel as brought in by B.C.’s premier on Thursday morning, Henry said she was not considering issuing an order banning interprovincial travel. She said that the Maritimes, which require a 14-day quarantine when people enter from other parts of Canada, have a different situation and that it’s not “feasible” in B.C.

She said cases now are being driven by people who chose to “stretch the rules” over the holidays and got together in small, local groups. Currently, British Columbians have been told to not socialize with anyone outside their household for non-essential reasons, unless they live alone and choose to bubble with others.

“Now in the interior we are seeing the implications of what could happen in this province if we all took those liberties,” Henry said.

READ MORE: COVID clarity: Feds say 42-day gap for 2-dose vaccines OK as provinces race to immunity

READ MORE: More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases


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katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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