Tuesday 13 April 2021
Most of the cases are to Brazil
The Canadian Ski Area becomes a P.1 hotspot
From Hedviga Nyarsik
A year ago, the ski resort of Ischgl in Austria became the epicenter of the Coronavirus epidemic in Europe. Now North America has its own Ischgl – but this time it is the most contagious and dangerous P.1 variant that spreads to the region from the Canadian skiing region.
Coronavirus variants are on the rise around the world. Mutations now define the contagion process in several regions: B.1.1.7 is prevalent in Europe, and variant B.1.351 is spread from South Africa. And in Brazil, the P.1 mutation is rife – but just not there. Thousands of kilometers north, Canada’s ski region has become a super spreader for P.1. Authorities were forced to close the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort in late March after the Brazilian virus spread rapidly in the community.
Memories of Ischgl woke up in Tirol a year ago, as the virus – as it did in a small ski area in the Austrian Alps – was spreading rapidly and initially undetected from Whistler Blackcomb across British Columbia. With 877 confirmed cases of P.1, the region in southwestern Canada is now the epicenter of the world’s largest spread of the variant outside of Brazil. Nearly a quarter of the injuries could be related to Whistler.
The P.1 mutation is a highly contagious virus and appears to be most deadly in young adults and appears to have the potential to re-infect those who have recovered. In Brazil, Page 1, along with countless political failures, has led to the collapse of the country’s healthcare system. The alternative has also spread to neighboring countries.
Failure by the authorities
However, how the mutant got to the alpine resort in Canada is a mystery to experts: None of the 84 people who were registered at the start of the outbreak in Whistler reported traveling outside of Canada. Epidemiologist Jean-Paul Soucy of the Covid-19 Canada Open Data Working Group accuses authorities of failing to track cases closely. He told The Guardian that British Columbia has lagged behind other provinces when it comes to tracking the percentage of cases with variants.
Additionally, the Canadian border was closed late. Susi said: “It’s also unfortunate. But the fact that we introduced increased quarantine measures at the border so late might not have helped either.” “If these measures had been implemented months ago, the whole thing could have been slowed down – or even avoided.”
It’s possible that the notorious lack of housing in Whistler has also played a role in the rapid spread. Especially the young department employees were infected with P.1. One employee told the newspaper, “Because the rents are so high, people live in lockers, and sometimes up to eight people share an apartment.” She shares an apartment with three of her roommates.
When she got sick, she said, she tried to isolate herself in her bedroom. However, all of their roommates had been infected – including those who had already received the vaccine with Astrazeneca. “Most of us cannot do our work from home. We still have to go to the work front to support the people,” the young woman said. “It’s really hard to isolate the virus when most people live with eight other people.”
“You don’t want to fly blind.”
However, the British Columbia Health Authority does not want to increase the sequencing of virus variants. “We just assume that positive tests are the variables. Anyone who has tested positive for Covid-19 should be treated as if they were infected with one of these highly contagious viruses,” county health official Bonnie Henry told reporters. Instead, the province wants to closely follow chains of infections and, above all, investigate cases where protection against vaccination has failed.
However, experts criticize this approach. They say the sequencing gives critical insight into how the variable is spread. “I fear that if you stop sequencing so many of these cases, we will lose important information,” said epidemiologist Eric Feigl Ding. He referred to the sequencing work done by the UK and Danish health authorities late last year. They discovered that cases in their own countries have generally decreased, according to Vigel Deng. But at the same time the variable B.1.1.7 has increased significantly.
The scientist said: “If they hadn’t done the sequencing, they would have had the false sense of success that the epidemic was over.” That was exactly what he feared for Canada. “When you have a more infectious species that is feeding the epidemic, you don’t want to go blind.”