P.E.I. has one new case of COVID-19 connected to travel, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said during her weekly update on the pandemic situation Thursday.
Morrison was joined by Chief of Nursing Marion Dowling, who updated Islanders on the COVID-19 numbers on P.E.I. and across Canada, as well on the vaccine rollout and travel restrictions.
Morrison said the new case was related to travel outside the Atlantic provinces, and has triggered a flight exposure alert regarding Air Canada Flight AC8302 from Montreal to Charlottetown on April 17. Anyone on that flight should monitor for symptoms, she said.
A news release issued later Thursday said the person who tested positive was "between the ages of 10 and 19," adding: "There are no school exposures."
There are currently 12 active cases on P.E.I. and 175 total cases.
Close eye on variants
Morrison said officials are now assuming all new cases are variants of concern. Most of the recent cases have been the B117 strain first identified in the U.K.
Morrison also mentioned a new variant of concern: B1167 is a double-mutant strain first sequenced in India.
"We've not yet the seen the worst of this third wave of COVID-19," she noted.
Health officials are still learning about the effectiveness of vaccines against variants of concern, she added.
On Monday, the province paused most non-resident travel to the province from outside Atlantic Canada. Morrison also advised Island residents to avoid non-essential travel off P.E.I., and said the timeline for the reopening of the Atlantic bubble, rescheduled for May 3, would be re-examined in the coming days.
A rising number of cases throughout the Atlantic provinces is to blame. P.E.I. had its first two hospitalizations from COVID-19 over the weekend, although one of those people, a child under 10, has since been discharged.
I can assure you that when our office calls people to tell them their test results are positive, they are very surprised. — Dr. Heather Morrison
Nova Scotia is reporting 38 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, the highest daily case count in the province in a year. Health officials in that province held a briefing Thursday afternoon where they announced a four-week lockdown in the Halifax area.
New Brunswick, where there were 19 new cases Thursday, also held a briefing, where they revealed only 59 per cent of long-term care workers have chosen to be vaccinated.
Positive tests can be 'surprising'
Morrison urged Island residents to continue to adhere to public health measures, and not leave the province "unless absolutely necessary."
She said increased testing is on the way in Borden at the P.E.I. end of the Confederation Bridge to New Brunswick, at the airport in Charlottetown, and at Wood Islands, where the ferry between P.E.I. and Nova Scotia docks. She added P.E.I. is the envy of other provinces when it comes to turnaround time for COVID-19 tests.
She stressed the importance of self-isolation as a key to preventing community spread.
"There are some individuals who do not want to self-isolate because they believe they do not have COVID-19, or they will not get COVID-19, or they've not been in an area where COVID-19 is present, and moreover the virus presents no risk to themselves or others," Morrison said, adding some people do not acknowledge P.E.I. is in a public health emergency or that the world is experiencing a pandemic.
"To individuals who feel this way, I can assure you that when our office calls people to tell them their test results are positive, they are very surprised," Morrison said. A third of these people have no symptoms, she said.
More than 21,000 households have completed self-isolation since last March, she said.
Enforcement officials have investigated 766 complaints regarding self-isolation, issued 205 warnings, given 140 charges including seven pending, and conducted 1,200 random checks of those in self-isolation.
Morrison acknowledged people are "weary" of COVID-19 restrictions, but stressed P.E.I.'s measures have been working well and the vaccine is a sign of hope.
"This is not the time for us to let our guard down," Morrison said. "As a country, we think COVID-19 is going to get worse before it gets better."
Reminder about symptoms
The symptoms of COVID-19 can include:
Cough or worsening of a previous cough.
Possible loss of taste and/or smell.
New or worsening fatigue.
Shortness of breath.
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