Canada is looking at a COVID-19 "variant of interest" out of India as Canadians continue to work through the third wave of the pandemic.
"The virus globally is undergoing evolution and there are many different mutations and changes... particularly in countries that have a lot of cases," Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer said at a press conference on Wednesday.
"We don’t understand enough about it but there are mutations on it that are similar to other variants of concern, which means that, of course, we need to look at that data very carefully but there’s not a lot of information that’s coming out of India at the moment."
Last month, a new variant was detected in India dubbed a "double mutant" variant, because it has two mutations in the spike protein. India reported a record-breaking 295,041 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and 2,023 deaths.
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Looking at recent flights to Canada, potential COVID-19 exposures have been identified for 18 Air Canada and Air India flights from Delhi to both Toronto and Vancouver from April 10 to April 17 alone, but it is still unknown if any of these cases are linked to the variant of interest."
Dr. Tam stressed that "universal" border measures are important, including Canada's pre-boarding testing, post-arrival testing, government authorized arrival accommodation and the required 14-day quarantine. She gave the example of the P1 variant first detected in Brazil, with cases of this variant being detected outside of travel from that country specifically.
"Country-specific targeted measures can only go so far, it’s actually the broader application of measures to all countries that Canada has been focused on," Dr. Tam said.
"The testing has been very helpful so we have been detecting test-positive travellers as well as sequencing every one of them to look at what variants might be coming across the border, and that will help inform us of what further needs to be done."
Canada’s chief public health officer said an analysis is being undertaken for the "emerging situation" of the India variant, particularly as there has been a resurgence of COVID-19 in that country.
"We’ll be doing that risk assessment again and using the data that we have now collected at the border to inform our next steps," Dr. Tam said.