Novel Coronavirus COVID-19
 

COVID-19 Variants of Concern


The data for VOCs are updated Tuesday to Saturday at 12:30 pm based on the information extracted from PHIMS.


COVID-19 variants of concern, such as those first identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, continue to spread globally. The first variant of concern detected in Canada was in December 2020. This variant was originally identified in the United Kingdom. Since then, cases of COVID-19 due to variants of concern have been identified in a number of Canadian provinces.

Our knowledge and understanding of these variants is rapidly evolving. Provincial public health officials continue to review the emerging evidence and modify responses to delay their spread and limit their impact.

Manitoba’s goal is to slow the introduction of variants of concern in Manitoba, giving us more time to get vaccine into arms to protect Manitobans.

We know that the virus can be transmitted by people who don’t have any symptoms. This can be particularly challenging in the close confines of households, where staying apart can be difficult and transmission is already occurring. That’s why we’re also making changes to how we manage cases and contacts to further reduce the spread of the virus.

Manitoba has lowered the threshold of what’s considered “prolonged contact” with a COVID-positive case to identify close contacts. This will help identify more close contacts and reduce the spread of the virus.

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, all household members will be considered close contacts and will have to self-isolate.

If someone is a close contact of a case who lives in a different household, all members of the close contact’s household must also stay home until the close contact has been tested and they have a negative result.

Any close contacts without symptoms will be advised to get tested on notification and at day 10 after their last exposure to a positive case. The first testing of asymptomatic contacts in the self-isolation period is optional to allow earlier identification of asymptomatic cases, and initiation of contact tracing and isolation if positive. This has the potential to reduce further exposures in the household and overall isolation/self-isolation periods for the household.

Close contacts must self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days regardless of test results.


Naming of COVID-19 Variants of Concern

Pango Lineage WHO Label
B.1.1.7 Alpha
B.1.351 Beta
P.1 Gamma
B.1.617.2 Delta

Visit the World Health Organization for more information on the naming of COVID-19 variants of concern and variants of interest.


FAQs


Viruses like the one that cause COVID-19 are constantly changing through mutation. New variants occur over time; sometimes, the new variants emerge and disappear, while others last.


Different variants of concern of the virus that causes COVID-19 are currently circulating in Manitoba, and globally. This includes a variant called B.1.1.7, which was originally identified in the United Kingdom in fall 2020. Other variants of concern have also been detected, including ones identified in South Africa and Brazil (B.1.351) and Brazil (P.1).


COVID-19 variants of concern may:

  • Spread more quickly in the population compared to the current strain. For instance, it only took the South African and UK variants a few months to become the most dominant strains circulating in their respective countries. Quicker virus spread may result in higher numbers of cases that can affect health system capacity and may require stronger or additional public health measures.
  • Cause more severe disease. Information is rapidly evolving on the impacts of VOCs, with emerging evidence on increased risk of disease severity and death. We continue to monitor the effects of all variants.
  • Compromise natural or vaccine induced immunity. Mutations may interfere with the ability of antibodies to recognize or stop the virus, and may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines. Research is ongoing to determine impacts on vaccines, including how vaccine manufacturers can alter vaccines to address mutations that occur.

Given these potential changes, public health officials at all levels (internationally, nationally and provincially) continue to actively monitor and study emerging COVID-19 variants.


Manitoba's approach is focused on allowing the vaccination program to rollout to as many Manitobans as possible while slowing the spread of COVID-19 variants of concern by:

  1. Laboratory screening of positive COVID-19 specimens for mutations associated with variants of concern to allow early detection. This is followed by a confirmation test.
  2. Aggressive case and contact management to contain and slow the spread of COVID-19, including variants of concern, in the province.
  3. Ongoing reviews of public health measures to align with changing national guidance and incorporate emerging evidence.
  4. Ongoing monitoring of known and emerging variants in Manitoba.

The new variants spread the same way as the original COVID-19 virus. Manitobans should continue follow public health orders, limit contact with others as much as possible, and focus on the fundamentals to limit the spread of COVID-19 (including variants) and protect yourself and those around you. Be sure to:

  • check yourself for symptoms every day
  • stay home when you are sick, even if symptoms are only mild
  • get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19
  • maintain social (physical) distancing
  • wear a mask when social (physical) distancing is not possible
  • wash your hands when social (physical) distancing is not possible
  • follow all public health advice and direction if you have returned from travel or have been identified as close contact to a case with a variant of concern

Yes. Research is still ongoing to determine impacts on vaccines, including how vaccine manufacturers can alter vaccines to address mutations that occur.  Our best defence against COVID-19 and variants of concern is to vaccinate Manitoba’s population, in addition to following public health orders and following the fundamentals.


  • An individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 due to a variant of concern must isolate for a minimum of 10 days, and if symptomatic, has been symptom free for 24 hours. If the positive individual isolates at home, all members of that individual’s household must also self-isolate (quarantine) for the same 10 days as the positive case, and must self-isolate (quarantine) for a further 14 days following to ensure the virus was not transmitted in the final days of the case’s isolation, for a total of 24 days of self-isolation (quarantine).
  • If the case is able to isolate in the home away from other household contacts, all household close contacts must self-isolate (quarantine) for 14 days from the last exposure to the case. Testing is recommended at day 10. The close contact must be asymptomatic, and is required to have a negative test to remove from self-isolation at day 14. If not tested, self-isolation is extended for 14 days after the case finishes their isolation period.
  • Individuals who, at the time of the exposure to a case, have received a full series of immunization (i.e. two doses for current authorized vaccines), and more than two weeks have elapsed since the last dose in the series, are not required to self-isolate (quarantine) if:
    • they are asymptomatic, and
    • are not residents or inpatients in a healthcare or congregate setting, and
    • do not have a medical condition (e.g. immunocompromised) that would impact vaccine effectiveness.
  • In addition, individuals who have been recently infected (within three months) are also exempt from self-isolation (quarantine).
  • These individuals should self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days following an exposure. If symptoms develop, they should isolate and be tested.
  • Given the greater transmissibility of some variants of concern, and the potential disruption to household members, cases are strongly encouraged to discuss alternative isolation arrangements with their public health nurse. Accessing these supports can potentially reduce the likelihood of transmission and shorten the household members self-isolation (quarantine) to 14 days after their last contact with the case.

  • Management of close contacts is the same for all strains of COVID-19.
  • All contacts should be tested when contact notification occurs, and at 10 days.
  • All household members who live with a close contact to COVID-19 should also self-isolate (quarantine) until the close contact tests negative at day 10 or later. If the close contact is not tested, household members are advised to self-isolate (quarantine) until the contact finishes their self-isolation (quarantine) period and remains asymptomatic.
  • The close contact and household members should self-isolate (quarantine) separately from each other to reduce the risk of transmission should the close contact become a COVID-19 case.
  • Exemptions from self-isolation (quarantine) are allowed if the household member is asymptomatic and are:
    • Fully immunized (i.e. it has been at least two weeks since their last dose), AND
    • are not residents or inpatients in a healthcare or congregate setting, AND
    • do not have a medical condition (e.g. immunocompromised) that would impact vaccine effectiveness OR
  • Have been recently infected (i.e. previous COVID-19 infection in the last three months).
  • Exemptions may also be allowed for household members of close contacts who are essential workers required to wear PPE at work if:
    • everyone in the household is asymptomatic, including the close contact,AND
    • they self-isolate (quarantine) when not at work, AND
    • the close contact can self-isolate (quarantine) from the essential worker in the household. More information is available from Public Health or Occupational and Environmental Health.
  • Exemptions DO NOT APPLY to essential workers if they have been identified as a close contact themselves.

There is evidence that some of the variants of concern are more easily transmitted. Manitoba needs to ensure that we are able to quickly identify and isolate COVID-19 cases and trace contacts quickly to limit community spread. Testing close contacts without symptoms is important, as some people don’t show any symptoms, but can spread the virus. As a result, testing close contacts 10 days after their last exposure can help to identify additional cases and ensure that appropriate measures are taken to limit further spread.


As of June 2021, VOCs account for more than 50 per cent of all new COVID-19 cases, with the highest proportions in southern Manitoba. The variant originally identified in the UK, B.1.1.7, is responsible for the majority of VOC cases.

Previously, public health would notify cases if their test screened or sequenced as positive for a VOC. This included a check to see if the client recalled any additional information beyond what they had initially provided.

Public health officials will no longer be specifically notifying people if their test screened or sequenced positive for any VOC, which ensures resources are focused on the initial case investigation. Public health officials are treating every positive case as if they have a VOC, which includes more aggressive case and contact management overall. This has become the standard approach for all cases and contacts, regardless of the type of COVID-19 strain that is causing the infection. There is no difference in how public health manages cases or contacts that have a VOC identified, as the majority of cases are now due to a VOC.

Data on VOC cases will continue to be reported on the dashboard as a total number and at the regional levels to monitor overall trends. They may appear in the totals as either a specific variant (e.g. B.1.1.7, P.1, B.1.351, and B.1.617 lineage) or unspecified. In addition, if clusters or outbreaks are identified, these may still be reported as due to a specific VOC.