COVID-19 U.K. variant Montreal double-masking

Montreal has 44 confirmed or likely cases of the U.K. variant of COVID-19

The latest on variants in the city and the province, and new masking recommendations to curb the spread.

Though the Quebec public health institute has only confirmed seven cases of the U.K. variant of COVID-19 (aka B117) in Montreal, local public health authorities warn that there may be as many as 44 cases, and community spread may already be taking place.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Montreal public health director Dr. Mylène Drouin explained that nine cases of the U.K. variant in the city have been confirmed through lab sequencing, 23 have not yet been confirmed and 12 are epidemiologically linked, ie. the infections likely stemmed from someone with a confirmed variant case. According to Drouin, presumptive cases of new variants are being treated as though they’re confirmed due to the danger they pose to the health care system — the U.K. variant specifically is said to be between 30% and 70% more transmissible and 30% more lethal.

One of the confirmed cases of the U.K. variant in Montreal was part of an outbreak of 40 cases of COVID-19 at the Outremont private school College Stanislas, which has announced a complete closure for at least one week.

Elsewhere in Quebec, two cases of the South African variant of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Abitibi, a region that will soon be an orange zone with more relaxed public health measures. There is an additional confirmed COVID-19 variant case somewhere in the province but public health has not yet identified which variant it is.

Given the emergence of COVID-19 variants in Quebec, Public Safety Minister Geneviève Guilbault said yesterday that the province is considering roadblocks to restrict non-essential travel between Quebec and Ontario for the upcoming spring break. An announcement about such measures will be made next week.

Yesterday the U.S. Center for Disease Control updated its recommendations about mask-wearing to curb the spread of COVID-19 variants, urging double masking and/or wearing single surgical masks with a close fit, ie. no air leakage on any side.

Both COVID-19 vaccines currently being used in Canada appear to be effective against the COVID-19 variants, though Pfizer is exploring the possibility of administering a booster shot specifically for the South African variant.

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