COVID modelling report says Delta variant lurking as B.C. reopens

The report said the province’s Phase 3 reopening on July 1 ‘leaves the future trajectory of Delta wide open’

Article content

B.C. is doing well when it comes to declining COVID-19 numbers, but a reluctance to share data is hurting world-wide efforts to beat the pandemic, a member of an independent COVID-19 modelling group said Wednesday.

Advertisement

Article content

Sarah Otto, a professor at the University of B.C. who specializes in mathematical modelling, said as the province reopens, the spread of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 has to be watched closely.

“We’re in a great place in B.C., and you can see that with the declining case numbers,” she said. “The issue going forward with the Phase 3 reopening is to stay in such a great place.”

She compared the Delta variant to a racehorse.

“You have this one that’s really speedy and chomping at the bit and we’ve just opened the gates,” she said. “That’s what worried us: What’s going to happen with Delta in the future?”

Since being identified in late 2020, the Delta variant has spread to more than 80 countries. It is a mutation in the spike protein the virus uses to enter cells in a body.

Advertisement

Article content

The World Health Organization considers it 55 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which was 50 per cent more transmissible than the original coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

On Wednesday, the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group, an interdisciplinary group of academics, researchers and experts, released its sixth report on the status of COVID-19 in B.C.

Data shows that areas with higher vaccination rates have “significantly lower daily case counts,” the report said. “Increasing vaccination coverage from 70 per cent to 83 per cent halves the average case count.”

The report said the province’s Phase 3 reopening on July 1 “leaves the future trajectory of Delta wide open.

“Increased transmission risks must be balanced by increasing vaccination to keep Delta numbers stable.”

Advertisement

Article content

The number of the Delta cases relative to other variants is likely to increase with the growth in contacts between people during Phase 3.

”Rising cases may not be followed by rises in hospitalizations, due to strong efficacy of vaccines against severe COVID-19,” the report said.

The report points out that Israel, where 65 per cent of people have one dose and 60 per cent have had two, has had to re-impose wearing masks indoors because of rising Delta cases.

“Countries with high vaccination levels are seeing upticks in cases and have slowed reopening due to Delta.”

The report said that the modelling group has repeatedly had trouble getting accurate and updated data on variants of concern from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. Since May, for example, all cases have been genetically sequenced but not publicly available.

Advertisement

Article content

“Data inconsistencies in the reporting of variants of concern have hampered external modelling and have contributed to substantial uncertainty in their spread over time, with their extent regularly under-estimated in the past six months,” the report said.

Otto said in an interview while the control of information may be motivated by protecting people’s privacy, “sometimes it feels like they are protecting the privacy of the virus.”

She said the fight against COVID-19 isn’t about limiting the analysis of data to within the provincial government, but recognizing that B.C. is part of a world-wide effort to figure out SARS-CoV-2.

“With a virus that we knew almost nothing about, we need all hands on deck,” she said. “We’re learning so much because everybody across the world is pooling their data.”

She said the lack of data accessibility and sharing in B.C. has been an issue since at least the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which was caused by a coronavirus.

She said it feels as if B.C. is behind a sea-change in being open when it comes to government health data.

“It does make me sad,” she said. “I think we could have learned more. We could have been more of a leader in figuring out what was happening earlier on had more data been released.”

kevingriffin@postmedia.com

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

This website uses cookies and asks your personal data to enhance your browsing experience.