‘I’m afraid’: Experts urge stricter lockdown with new COVID-19 variant

EDMONTON — Experts are expressing their concern with the new variants of COVID-19 being discovered in Alberta, and some say its emergence warrants a stricter lockdown.

Alberta’s top doctor, Deena Hinshaw, announced late Friday that the South African variant was found somewhere in the province.

The case involved a recent traveller, and no evidence has been found that the virus has since spread to others.

The variant from South Africa is believed to be similar to the UK variant, which was first detected in Dec. 2020.

So far, at least in the early information, although these variants appear to be more transmissible they don’t appear to be any more dangerous in terms of the severity of disease,” said Matthew Oughton, an infectious disease specialist.

Doctor Malgorzata Gasperowicz has been studying COVID-19 since February, and is paying close attention to the B-117, or UK variant, and how it is spreading across Europe.

I’m afraid at the moment we clearly see that we have a community transmission of B-117 it might be too late to act effectively,” said Gasperowicz.

“The window of opportunity to act is very narrow. Just within two weeks in southwest London they went from 25 per cent of new variant in all the variants to 75 per cent. And once it’s at 75 per cent it quickly dominates and spreads very fast exponential growth that is almost uncontainable.”

Gasperowicz added that if the new variants spread in the community under Alberta’s current restrictions, daily case numbers could triple.

She is calling for a lockdown of eight to 12 weeks to ensure the chances of such a rapid spread from occuring.

“Act as if it is already burning here and do everything to stomp it out. So really strong, strong restrictions and for sure we shouldn’t open the schools now. The more we let it spread, the more we let it circulate, bad situations will happen.”

To help reduce the risk of transmission and spread of the virus, she is urging the province to have mandatory, supervised quarantine for not only international travellers, but those who are travelling between provinces too.

“Like Atlantic and northern Canada did in the first wave and it’s absolutely doable. The faster we do it the quicker we can go back to normalcy.”

As of Friday, the Public Health Agency of Canada has confirmed 14 cases of the UK variant in the country, and the sole South African case identified in Alberta.

New research has suggested that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine can protect against the new COVID-19 variants.

 With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Amanda Anderson

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