Alberta health officials have learned the a child of a returning traveller “attended a Calgary school while they were determined to have been infectious with a variant case.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health confirmed Monday night that health officials have learned that a child of a returning traveller “attended a Calgary school while they were determined to have been infectious with a variant case (of COVID-19).”
“There’s been no evidence to date that anyone else has been infected,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw tweeted. “The affected class and any staff at risk of being exposed were already being treated as COVID-19 close contacts and so were already in quarantine.
“Health-care teams have contacted anyone who may have been potentially exposed and offered them the chance to get tested twice to reduce any potential for further onward transmission.”
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Hinshaw said she would provide an update on the situation Tuesday.
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Earlier in the day, Alberta Health confirmed the province has a total of 51 cases of COVID-19 variants first identified in the U.K. and South Africa. Health officials have said both variants appear to spread at a faster rate than the initial strain of the novel coronavirus. Of the 51 cases involving variants in Alberta, 44 are the U.K variant and seven are South African.
‘A lot of unknowns’
Craig Jenne, an infectious disease expert at the University of Calgary, called the development “potentially quite significant.”
“If there was transmission (like classmates being exposed), this may have some ability to spread and may begin to seed a community outbreak,” he told Global News. “There are a lot of unknowns at this point: How long was the child infectious? Have any close contacts contracted the virus? Have any of these close contacts further transmitted the virus?
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“We have been concerned about variants entering the classroom but given the low number of non-travel-related infections with variants, there was little evidence of community spread — this may change that, but we do not yet know the extent of viral transmission in this case.”
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Jenne explained it may not be clear how long the child was infectious because people can be exposed to the coronavirus and still test negative for a period of time afterwards. He said once the child tested positive for the novel coronavirus, contact tracing and self-isolation protocols would have already kicked in while the child was being tested for a COVID-19 variant.
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When asked if the Calgary case has implications for Canada’s COVID-19 travel protocols, Jenne said it was important to note that it is not yet clear to him if the parent had travelled internationally.
However, he said if the parent was returning to Alberta from outside of the country, “this should never have happened.”
“Returning international travellers must quarantine for a fixed period of time (14 days),” he said. “In this situation, the traveller must not leave the home and must limit contact with other people in the house (separate bedroom, bathroom, wearing a mask indoors).”
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He noted that there are exceptions to that rule — like if someone takes part in the pilot program for travellers at Calgary’s airport — but said even then, travellers “must still quarantine until receiving a second negative test result.”
“Moreover, the province provides hotels for people who must quarantine and cannot do so safely at home due to the inability to separate from other members of the household,” Jenne noted. “If these rules were followed, there should (be) little risk to the community or for a child that could be exposed to attend school.
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“I am not implying that people chose to ignore the rules but rather may not have understood the requirements. It is for this exact reason that the federal government has recently tightened travel restrictions, requiring a formal quarantine in a hotel until such time as a negative COVID(-19) test.”
Watch below: Some Global News videos about COVID-19 variants in Alberta.
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