New classifications in use to describe variants of virus
COVID-19 levels continue to head in the right direction as we approach June 14, the anticipated day for the province to begin its “roadmap to reopening” plan that will see the economy open based on the number of cases and vaccination rates.
“We have seen great progress in our fight against COVID-19 in the Region of Waterloo, but now, we know, is not the time to let our guard down. As the province announced this week, online learning will continue in order to reduce the risks. We must also continue to follow public health guidance so that we can continue down this path. This path will get us to the patios and the beaches this summer, and eventually to a place where we can physically embrace each other without fear,” said regional Chair Karen Redman at Friday’s weekly pandemic briefing.
She stressed the importance of following public health guidelines to avoid any issues that would delay mid-month reopening plans.
In Waterloo Region, there were 348 active cases on Friday. There have been 16,127 positive cases since the start of the pandemic, 15,513 (96.2 per cent) of which have now been resolved. Active outbreaks are ongoing at the following five locations, Forest Heights long-term care facility, Wilfrid Laurier University, and three work locations: a farm, a food and beverage location and a construction site.
This week the WHO (World Health Organization) changed the classification of variants of concerns away from their country of origin by substituting those names with a Greek character-based classification system. The B.1.1.7 variant, formerly known as the U.K. variant, is now being classified as the Alpha variant, B.1.351 is now labelled as the Beta variant instead of the South African variant, the P.1 variant is now the Gamma variant instead of Brazillian, and the Indian variant, B.1.167 is now being referred to as the Delta variant.
The Delta variant is newly arrived in the region, with medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang warning it could be more transmissible.
“We have circulation in what are the region of the new Delta variant previously known as the B.1.617 variant that was initially identified in India. It is believed to be more transmissible than the current dominant variant, which is the Alpha variant or the B.1.1.7 variant or the variant initially identified in the U.K. The B.1.1.7, or Alpha variant was the variant of a stroke or third wave. We therefore must continue to consistently and diligently practice our public health precautions.
“Things could change quickly if we relaxed measures too soon. So we must keep going and drive rates down further. The fewer cases we have, the better we’ll be able to control new variants as they emerge,” said Wang.
Such precautions are needed ahead of a warm, summery weekend, she added.
“We must continue to exercise caution and proceed with reopening in a very gradual manner. While we immunize more and more of our community, we need to hold on to our gains,” said Wang. “The fight is not over.”