Sequencing rules out U.K. variant in seven recent COVID-19 cases in Manitoba

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WINNIPEG — A highly contagious variant of COVID-19 first seen in the United Kingdom has been ruled out in seven recent COVID-19 cases in a Manitoba First Nations community.

The cases reported over the weekend in Pauingassi First Nation 280 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg shared a similar genetic marking to the U.K. variant.

But health officials say full genetic sequencing at the national microbiology lab in Winnipeg has determined the cases are different.

Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says it's not uncommon to flag potential cases of variants and have them turn out to be negative, and some other cases are still being sequenced.

So far, Manitoba has only had one confirmed case of the U.K. variant — involving a person who had travelled and who isolated immediately after arriving in the province.

Health officials reported 96 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday and 71 for Monday, continuing a trend of daily case counts below 100.

There were four deaths linked to COVID-19 over the two days.

While case numbers in most areas of the province are low, there are outbreaks in northern communities such as Thompson and Cross Lake.

Cross Lake Chief David Monias said COVID-19 has spread rapidly in the community and overcrowded housing makes it difficult to contain.

"You're faced with one house having one washroom most times, and it's hard to isolate or social distance when you (have) a large number of people in the home," Monias said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2021

The Canadian Press