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Coronavirus variant P1 in Whistler: The mutant stronghold


The aggressive coronavirus variant P1 has spread around the Canadian ski resort of Whistler. Authorities are trying in vain to contain the outbreak, which makes it a threat to the whole country.

Enlarge image

Whistler on December 25, 2020

Photo: Mert Alper Dervis / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Anyone who recently dealt with the corona situation in Canada was inevitably reminded of the beginning of the pandemic in Europe, when vacationers dragged the virus from Ischgl to numerous countries.

The scene of a violent outbreak in the North American country is probably the most famous ski area there: Whistler in the Rocky Mountains in the province of British Columbia.

There, the coronavirus mutant P1, which first appeared in Brazil, spread widely weeks ago.

It is significantly more contagious than the original virus and even more aggressive than the form B.1.1.7, which is now predominant in Germany and which was initially documented in Great Britain.

At the end of March, the Whistler ski season ended prematurely.

P1 could hardly be stopped there.

The latest situation report from the province of British Columbia shows that by March 27, at least 872 infections with P1 had taken place - more than anywhere else outside of Brazil.

Almost a quarter of the cases were in Whistler.

Infection through it offers less protection

The virus variant P1 is also so problematic because it can partly bypass the immune response to an infection with earlier variants and vaccination protection.

In Manaus, Brazil, where a large part of the population was infected in the first wave of the pandemic, the pathogen was able to spread again en masse and health care collapsed (read more here).

more on the subject

  • Second corona wave in Brazil: The mystery of the disappeared herd immunity by Irene Berres

  • Corona crisis: five reasons why herd immunity may never come - but vaccination still helps.By Julia Köppe

How the virus got from South America to Whistler is still unclear, the Guardian wrote on Sunday.

None of the 84 people infected in the town had reported traveling outside the country.

Young people who work in the resort were particularly affected.

Since January, authorities have tried to contain three different outbreaks - but to no avail.

This is hardly surprising, because the conditions under which many affected people live in Whistler offer perfect conditions for the virus to spread.

Living together in tiny apartments

"People just come from everywhere - that's what makes this place what it is," said a resort employee, according to the newspaper report.

There is now a suspicion that around two dozen cases of infection at the Canucks professional ice hockey club in Vancouver can be traced back to outbreaks in Whistler.

Rents in Whistler are extremely high.

Employees at the ski resort therefore often live in large shared apartments in cramped accommodations and share the bathroom and kitchen.

It is often difficult to isolate yourself there - especially in connection with a very contagious virus variant.

Enlarge image

Whistler in December 2020

Photo: Mert Alper Dervis / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Vaccination is now to be increased in Whistler.

So far, however, that has barely helped bring the outbreak under control.

To make matters worse, British Columbia has apparently capitulated a bit to the new variants and wants to test samples for new mutants less often.

You just treat every positive case as if it were due to a highly contagious variant, it said.

Authorities should focus on identifying cases of reinfection and those in which people who have already been vaccinated become ill again.

However, experts are skeptical as to whether this is the right way.

"I am concerned that we will be missing important information if they stop sequencing," said epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding, according to the Guardian.

Knowledge of new variants could also become known too late.

At the end of last year it was only possible to correctly assess the situation because Great Britain and Denmark had sequenced a lot.

It was noticeable that the number of corona cases fell overall, but at the same time more and more cases with the mutant B.1.1.7 occurred, which again led to an increase overall.

In the meantime, B.1.1.7 also determines the pandemic in Germany.


Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2021-04-13

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