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More contagious variants of COVID-19 found in Alberta may have spread to broader community

Last Updated Jan 25, 2021 at 6:33 pm MST

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro speaks during a press conference in Calgary on Friday, May 29, 2020. Alberta's minister of health has ordered an independent third-party investigation into how the province's health authority responded to a racist act. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

EDMONTON (660 NEWS) – Health Minister Tyler Shandro says two COVID-19 variants have been discovered in the province.

He made the announcement while joining Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw for her daily COVID-19 update Monday.

Shandro confirmed at least one of the variants is more contagious than what we’ve seen with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

There are two new variants of COVID-19 found throughout the globe, one found first in the U.K. and the other in South Africa.

Alberta has confirmed 20 cases of the U.K. variant in the province and five cases of the variant from South Africa.

Almost all the cases were linked to international travel, save for one, a U.K. variant.

“Let me be blunt, this is very concerning,” said Shandro.

He says the variant ripped through the U.K. rapidly, leading to exponential growth in case numbers.

Shandro says research shows the variants to have a higher infection rate, estimated to be 30 to 50 per cent higher.

He sats one variant may have already spread to the broader community.

“There’s no question that these do pose a threat to those who are most at risk, including those who are in continuing care.”

He says the current health guidelines are critical in limiting the spread of the new, more contagious variants.

In accordance with this, travellers must remain in isolation until their second COVID-19 test comes back negative.

Following the news from Shandro, Hinshaw announced 362 new cases of COVID-19 and 25 additional deaths.

There were 7,200 tests completed, putting Alberta’s positivity rate at 5 per cent.

A total of 1,574 Albertans have died.