Home Health COVID-19 Less room for error with UK-variant of COVID, says Dr Henry

Less room for error with UK-variant of COVID, says Dr Henry

Keep up with physical distancing, mask-wearing and socializing household-only. | Lower margin of error with virus that attaches more easily to human mucus membranes.

Tuesday December 29, 2020 | VICTORIA, BC [Updated 9 pm December 29, 2020]

by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., editor | Island Social Trends

The more contagious and more infectious UK-variant (B.1.1.7) of the COVID-19 virus “just tells us that we can have less room for error,” said Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry today. It’s one of the most definitive reminders that Dr Henry has delivered during the pandemic this year.

Public health layers of protection against COVID-19 viral penetration into our bodies must be followed even more rigorously than before. Once it’s into the human body — and it sticks even more tenaciously than with the original strain(s) of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus — the likelihood of active symptomatic infection shoots way up.

COVID-19, B.1.1.7, UK variant
The UK-variant (B.1.1.7) of the COVID-19 virus is more contagious.

A working group from the Centre for Mathematical Modeling of Infectious Diseases in London, England released a study on December 23 that found B.1.1.7 is 56% more transmissible than the regular strain. Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed the new strain is as much as 70% more transmissible than normal.

“We cannot have more than our small group of household contacts because even a smaller dose of the virus can lead to transmission and infection in others,” Dr Henry definitively stated today. It’s more of a direct warning than on most other things she has articulated in her COVID press conferences.

She explained that the B.1.1.7 strain is thought to be able to attach more easily to receptors in the mucus membranes of the human body including at the back of the throat and nose, as well as in the eyes and blood vessels and others areas of the body.

COVID, virus, replication
Replication of the COVID-19 virus in the human cell.

Follow the public health guidance:

“So we know what we need to do. It’s the same things that we have been doing… we just have a lower margin of error. So we all have to pay attention,” said BC’s top doctor.

These are the doctor’s orders: “Double down and doing what we know works, right now,” said Dr Henry. That’s all about hyper-vigilant physical distancing, frequent hand washing, wearing a face mask in all indoor public spaces, staying home if feeling unwell, and socializing only with our household members (or bubbles, if living alone).

Dr Henry’s Public Health Officer orders are currently in place to midnight of January 8, 2021. That includes a ban on non-essential travel and any sort of gatherings (no one is to be invited to your home, and all parties and get-togethers are not allowed).

The incubation period of the COVID-19 virus is about five to seven days before symptoms appear.

Given the uptick in concern about Christmas-gathering spread and the more aggressive B.1.1.7 UK-variant, it could well be that the orders around public gatherings, wearing masks in all indoor public spaces, and of course physical distancing will need to continue past January 8.

Everyone doing their part:

“This is a challenging time,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix today. He is reminding everybody “of what we need to do today, tomorrow, next day, new year’s day, and the rest of January …which is to dig in, to follow public health orders”.

Health Minister, Adrian Dix, December 29 2020, surgical renewal
Health Minister Adrian Dix urges British Columbians to continue following all public health orders, during press conference December 29, 2020 in Victoria.

Dix continued with a strong reminder on the absolute quarantine requirement for returning travelers: “To ensure that if you have an obligation to quarantine if you’re coming back to our country, that the quarantine is fully observed to its end. Because the people who are dealing with those issues in the health care system are 100% all in and we all need to be as well.”

Today’s COVID data (December 29):

In summary — for five reporting periods (December 24 to 29), in BC there have now been a total of 50,815 COVID cases in BC this year (901 in Island Health).

Of the total year-long cases, 7,580 are currently active (76 in Island Health), and another 9,414 people are self-isolating due to exposure to known cases of test-positive COVID-19 (that figure does not include the Northern health region due to some data-reporting challenges).

There are 373 people in hospital (80 in ICU). Of those, seven are in Island Health (two in ICU).

There are presently 56 active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living (eight of those new in the last five days), with eight active outbreaks in acute care (including at Vancouver General Hospital).

There were 74 more COVID-related deaths over the last five days (none on Vancouver Island), bringing this year’s total so far to 882.


BC is shifting to an approach to provide a first-dose of available vaccines to as many people as possible. This differs from the manufacturer recommendations to hold onto half of each supply delivery for a recommended second dose.

BC’s approach is to give some (good level) of immunity to as many people as possible, with the expectation that manufacturers will comply with agreed-upon delivery schedules.

Final COVID report of 2020:

The last live COVID joint press conference for 2020 by Dr Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix is scheduled for Thursday December 31. The time slot is usually 3 pm.

Island Social Trends
Island Social Trends – insights into stuff that matters. | Digital subscribers receive a weekly news digest by email and links to the Island Social Trends podcasts.