New COVID-19 variant not yet identified in Canada: Tam

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the new variant of COVID-19, which has prompted many countries to implement travel restrictions against the United Kingdom, has not yet been identified in Canada.

Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has said it is analyzing known cases to determine if the new strain, which research suggests is significantly more transmissible than the variant currently dominant in Canada, has already been found in the country.

Tam made the remarks during an update on Canada’s fight against COVID-19 Tuesday.

She said PHAC had to date looked at over 25,000 sequences of the virus already collected in Canada, saying these were the highest quality samples, and was working to determine the quality of other samples.

PHAC had also linked with several provincial authorities who were also sequencing existing samples, noting they had not detected the variant.

Analysis would target high-probability samples, Tam said, such as from people who had recently travelled.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo were present at the briefing.

Moderna decision coming soon: Hajdu

Hajdu told reporters that Health Canada now has all the data it needs in order to complete its review of the Moderna vaccine. The government said the country could receive 168,000 doses of the vaccine by year’s end.

“My understanding is that decision will be very soon,” Hajdu said, noting she couldn’t speak for the independent regulators.

Tam also warned that Canada was currently on track for a strong resurgence of the virus over the next two months.

“This is a perilous time,” she said.

According to Tam, only a continued commitment from Canadians to following public health measures can allay concerns about increasing cases and deaths.

As of 12:35 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had recorded a total of 519,706 cases of COVID-19, and a CBC News tally of deaths stood at 14,381. Ontario and Quebec each recorded more than 2,000 new cases today.

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