As COVID-19 continues to spread, several new variants of the novel coronavirus have emerged.

There are currently three new strains of the virus that have been identified: B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1.

COVID variant cases in Canada

 
 

COVID variant cases by province

 

Note: Our data currently reflects laboratory-confirmed cases of variants of concern. While public health officials have linked the St. John’s outbreak to the B.1.1.7 variant, this chart shows only the portion of those test samples that have undergone genetic sequencing. Read more about the testing and publishing process here.

Can't see the tracker? Click here.

The virus has spikes on its surface that helps it attach onto human cells. Scientists say that these new variants of the virus have changes in their spikes, which can cause them to interact with the human body differently than the original virus.

B.1.1.7 first emerged in the U.K. in September 2020. Doctors say that this variant spreads faster than others, and could be transmitted in less time than the original strain.

The B.1.1.7 variant is the most prominent in Canada, with hundreds of cases having been identified. Ontario has seen the most number of cases, where an outbreak involving this variant at a long-term care home has resulted in all residents but one contracting the virus and more than 100 positive cases amongst staff.

The B.1.351 variant was first discovered in South Africa in December 2020. Scientists say that this variant is more efficient than others in targeting healthy cells. So far, Canada has seen 61 cases of this variant.

P.1 was first identified in December 2020 when this variant caused one of the deadliest outbreaks in Manaus, Brazil. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contracting this variant could affect the ability of antibodies developed from previous infections and vaccinations. Canada reported its first case of this variant on Feb. 7.

Public Health Ontario issued in their epidemiologic summaries that variant tracking data may change as they continue to analyze cases:

Caution should be taken when interpreting [variants of concern] data due to the nature of the screening and confirmation process, including delays between specimen collection and whole genome sequencing.

Data corrections or updates can result in case records being removed and/or updated and may result in totals different from past publicly reported case counts.

Backstory:

Data is collected from official provincial sources, including live press conferences. Not all provinces currently publish updates online.

Ontario: Daily epidemiologic summaries

Alberta: Website

British Columbia: Website