Manitoba

Testing confirms B117 coronavirus variant not present in Pimicikamak

The National Microbiology Laboratory has confirmed the coronavirus variant first detected in the U.K. was not found in some samples from Pimicikimak, the chief confirmed on Wednesday.

To date, only 1 confirmed case of variant of concern in the province

Pimicikamak is located about 530 kilometres north of Winnipeg. The community acted quickly to contain the spread of a possible coronavirus variant of concern earlier this week, but further testing has confirmed it's not the B117 variant first detected in the U.K. (Submitted by Kyle Scribe)

The National Microbiology Laboratory has confirmed the coronavirus variant first detected in the U.K. was not found in some samples from Pimicikimak, the chief confirmed on Wednesday.

The community is breathing a sigh of relief, says Coun. Donnie McKay, who oversees health-related matters for the community, which is also known as Cross Lake First Nation

"Obviously we are very relieved because of the number of cases we have in the community. There's too many," he said, saying there's 97 active cases as of Wednesday.

"This last month has been the biggest outbreak in our community."

On Monday, Chief David Monias told CBC News there was a possible case of the B117 variant in the community.

The next day he said in a Facebook Live that the community was concerned.

In addition to DNA markers similar to the B117 variant, Monias says the alarming spread of the virus in the community had him worried about a virus variant of concern.

"It went from one person to the next, and one household to the next very quickly," he said. "The transmission of the virus was increased than when we had the first and second wave. So I think that's why they suspected it."

To date, there is only one confirmed case of a variant of concern in Manitoba. The person had travelled from Africa to Europe and then to Winnipeg before testing positive. The original case and five household contacts were told to self-isolate.

Pauingassi First Nation also reported seven probable cases of the B117 variant of concern on Saturday, but by Tuesday five of the seven had tested negative.

Meanwhile, Indigenous Services Canada says Pimicikamak, about 530 kilometres north of Winnipeg, has received its second shipment of vaccines, which will serve as second doses for elders and health-care workers.

The federal government is also deploying six additional public health nurses to help inoculate people, as health-care workers in the community are overworked due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

The additional help is welcome, but McKay says the nursing station in the community of about 8,000 is chronically understaffed, and has been much more so during the latest outbreak.

On Tuesday, Monias called on the Canadian Armed Forces to be sent to Pimicikamak to help support their COVID-19 response, but he says there's no word back yet on military aid. 

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