Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer has said that COVID-19 variants now account for the majority of virus cases in the country.
Dr. Theresa Tam made the comments at a press conference on Friday, noting that the B.1.1.7 mutation accounts for over 95% of variant cases.
“Variants of concern now represent the majority of reported COVID-19 cases,” Tam said.
To date, there have been 106,800 variant cases detected across Canada. Of which 102,658 are the B.1.1.7 mutation, while the P.1 variant accounts for 3,507 cases, and the B.1.351 for 635.
When asked if officials would close Canada’s international borders to prevent further spread of variants, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the “importation” of the virus through Canada’s borders is “extremely low.”
Trudeau noted the strict testing and quarantine measures in place at both air and land borders have been “effective” at controlling the spread, and that the third wave has been mostly spurred by community transmission.
“The borders will never be 100% [at stopping] a virus that has the characteristics of COVID-19,” Tam said. “Even if you slow down things at the border, you still need the next stages.”
“Any variants can be squished and flattened in terms of its activity if the public health measures are in place domestically as well.”
Dr. Howard Njoo, the Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, commented that conversations regarding border restrictions “detract” from the “primary focus” of public health measures.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has asked Trudeau to stop international students from entering Canada. Trudeau said the request would be “formalized” later on Friday.
“The virus keeps changing. It is an ongoing event,” Tam said. “As the virus is adapting to the human population… [what] we’re seeing is that some of them are more transmissible.”
“I think that all viruses are going to become more transmissible over time.”
To date, Canada has seen 1,211,083 COVID-19 cases and 24,169 virus-related deaths.