Alberta reports Canada’s 1st case of coronavirus variant found in South Africa


Alberta has detected the first case in Canada of a COVID-19 variant first detected in South Africa.

The case involved a recent traveller, who is now in quarantine, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, announced on social media Friday.

Hinshaw said there is no evidence the variant has spread to anyone else.

Federal officials had said as late as Tuesday that the new variant had yet to be detected in the country.

A spokesperson with the Public Health Agency of Canada said in an email late Friday that the Alberta case was confirmed as the first reported case of the variant found in Canada.

The variant that was first reported in South Africa is more infectious than the original COVID-19 virus and has rapidly become dominant in that country’s coastal areas.

The province also announced Friday it will now offer the COVID-19 vaccine to all health-care workers in medical, surgical and COVID-19 units, meaning about 18,700 COVID-19 unit and medical and surgical unit staff are eligible for the first round of vaccinations.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Health Minister Tyler Shandro, 219 physicians from across the province said Alberta’s vaccination schedule has passed over workers on the front lines of Alberta’s battle against the virus.

Personnel employed in the specialized units — including family physicians, medical internists, nurses, clerks, aides, physical therapists and cleaning staff — contend with the same risk and should be next in line for inoculation, the letter stated. 

In the same news release late Friday afternoon, the province announced that doctors, nurses and pharmacists who are not Alberta Health Services employees will be permitted to deliver the vaccine.

As of Thursday, there have been 37,686 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered in Alberta, about 852.3 doses per 100,000 population.

To date, three adverse reactions following immunization have been reported to Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services.

Latest COVID-19 numbers

On Friday, the province reported 24 more deaths due to COVID-19 and 1,183 new cases of the disease Friday. 

Alberta currently has 13,628 active cases of the illness.

Provincial labs completed 16,765 tests for the disease Thursday with a positivity rate near seven per cent.

Of the 24 deaths reported Friday, nine people were under the age of 70. So far 1,241 people have died of COVID-19. 

On Thursday, there are 851 people in hospital with the illness, 20 fewer people than Wednesday, 135 of them in intensive care.

Here is how the active cases break down among health zones:

  • Edmonton zone: 5,483 cases
  • Calgary zone:  4,839 cases
  • North zone: 1,508 cases
  • Central zone: 1,460 cases
  • South zone: 262 cases
  • Unknown: 76 cases

Hinshaw will hold her next news conference on COVID-19 on Monday. 

Premier Jason Kenney is also expected to speak Monday on vaccination plans in Alberta.