Highly contagious coronavirus variant confirmed in Manitoba Interlake First Nation

A Manitoba First Nation is reporting its first confirmed case of a highly contagious coronavirus variant.

Leadership urging community members to get vaccinated, remain vigilant

Residents of Fisher River Cree Nation are urged to get vaccinated after the community's first B117 case was announced on Saturday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A Manitoba First Nation is reporting its first confirmed case of a highly contagious coronavirus variant.

Fisher River Cree Nation says it has been informed by public health officials that there is one positive case of the B117 variant first detected in the U.K., the First Nation announced in a bulletin on its website on Saturday.

"Leadership and Health Services want to urge residents to remain calm as Health Services have been following the proper procedures in terms of contact tracing investigations and isolation protocols," the bulletin said.

The First Nation, which is 174 kilometres north of Winnipeg, has a number of safety protocols in place to prevent the spread. 

Members are urged not to travel out of the community unless it's for essential reasons, and any travel is logged.

On Saturday, 710 cases of the more contagious coronavirus variants were reported in Manitoba on the province's variant dashboard, up from 704 on Friday. Of those, 287 are considered active.

Most of those cases are the B117 variant first detected in the U.K., though the province has also reported a total of 20 cases of the B1351 strain first seen in South Africa and one case of the P1 variant, which has become associated with Brazil.

There has been one other on-reserve case of a variant of concern in Manitoba, which was reported on March 19 by Dr. Marcia Anderson of the First Nations Pandemic Response Co-ordination Team.

The person who tested positive for the B117 strain had self-isolated effectively and recovered. It's believed that person became ill within Manitoba but outside of their community, which Anderson declined to name. She said at the time there was no evidence of the variant spreading further on that First Nation.

Meanwhile, the first B117 case in the Northern health region was announced on Wednesday, in a high school student.

A student at Margaret Barbour Collegiate, a Grade 9-12 school in The Pas, Man., tested positive for the variant of concern, the principal confirmed at the time.

Meanwhile, Fisher River Cree Nation leadership is hoping more people will get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We again encourage our residents to please get vaccinated to ensure the safety of yourself and our community," the bulletin said.

As of Saturday, 219 people in the community are fully vaccinated and 726 members have received their first dose, Fisher River's dashboard says.

There is one active case on-reserve and one person has died of COVID-19.