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Many unknowns about ‘immune evasive’ B.1.617 variant identified in India: expert

In this March 11, 2020 photo, a laboratory technician prepares COVID-19 patient samples for semi-automatic testing at Northwell Health Labs, in Lake Success, N.Y. (Photo credit: News 1130)
In this March 11, 2020 photo, a laboratory technician prepares COVID-19 patient samples for semi-automatic testing at Northwell Health Labs, in Lake Success, N.Y. (Photo credit: News 1130)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A UBC expert says there’s still a lot we don’t know about the B.1.617 strain of the coronavirus, a variant believed to be driving a devastating surge of cases in India.

After India set a world record for new infections with more than 314,000 cases in a single day Thursday, Canada suspended incoming flights from India and Pakistan.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said half the people who are testing positive for the coronavirus after arriving in Canada by airplane came from India. Flights from India account for about one-fifth of the country’s air traffic. There are also a disproportionately higher number of positive cases among those travelling on flights from Pakistan, she said, adding the move makes sense given how little researchers understand about the variant.

Dr. Jeffrey Joy, a research scientist at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, says this strain of the virus has been classified as a “variant of interest,” but he predicts it will soon be categorized as a variant of concern.

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