B117 coronavirus variant now dominant strain in Manitoba

Manitoba will no longer notify people in most areas if they have the B117 coronavirus variant because it has now become the province’s dominant strain. 

The more-contagious variants of concern now account for more than half of all new COVID-19 cases in the province, with B117 making up the majority of those. Most variant cases are in Winnipeg, according to provincial data.

In the province’s south, the percentage of COVID-19 cases stemming from the B117 variant “hit probably 70 per cent, depending on your location,” Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba’s acting deputy public health officer, said at a Friday news conference.

“So there’s no use in distinguishing wild strain versus the B117 strain. It is basically our circulating strain.”

Up until now, public health officials notified anyone if their sample screened positive for a variant of concern, which triggered a more detailed secondary case investigation, Atwal said.

“However, public health now treats all cases as if they have a VOC and there is no difference in the management of cases and contacts,” he said.

“With cases rising and the proportion of VOC cases increasing, public health needs to focus its resources on first case investigations to get as much information as possible as soon as possible.”

Health officials may still inform people if they test positive for B117 — a variant first identified in the U.K. — if they live in areas where variant cases are low, such as in the Northern Health region or rural communities, Atwal said.

Cases of the B1351 variant — first identified in South Africa — and the P1 variant, commonly associated with Brazil, will continue to receive notifications.

The total number of variants of concern climbed from 1,900 to 2,095 on Friday. Of Manitoba’s 2,375 active COVID-19 cases, 830 are now related to the more transmissible variants of the coronavirus that causes the illness.