British Columbia has reported the first case of a new strain of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

On Tuesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told a news conference that the AY 4.2 strain was first detected in the United Kingdom, but has also been connected to spread in Western Canada.

“What we are looking at is whether these variants are spreading more quickly or are making people sicker,” Henry said. “Our defense continues to be vaccination.”

Based on preliminary evaluation, she said, the vaccine works against the evolution of the Delta variant.

COVID-19 strains evolve over time and full sequencing is still being done for all positive cases in B.C., she added.

The UK Health Security Agency has designated the mutation as a “variant under investigation.” Early analysis suggest it could be slightly more transmissible than the original Delta strain.

AY 4.2 cases make up roughly 10 per cent of the sequenced cases in the U.K.

The province is grappling with whether additional measures are needed to manage more transmissible versions of the virus. For now, the focus continues to be immunizations, washing hands, keeping distance and minimizing time with large groups indoors.

Meanwhile, B.C. is not considering restrictions only for those who choose not to be vaccinated, referring to the partial lockdown that Austria has imposed on unvaccinated people in a bid to get them to get the shot.

“Right now, it is about watch and waiting. We are re-looking at what are the things we need to do, all of us, to get through this,” Henry said.

She also provided a timeline for children aged 5 to 11 waiting to receive a vaccine, saying she anticipates Health Canada approval on the Pfizer vaccine for this age group either this week or next.

The province will make the shot available “before the upcoming holidays” if it is approved along the expected timeline, she said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix also provided an update on the vaccine mandate for health-care workers in acute care: 98 per cent of that workforce is now fully vaccinated, while 2,885 employees, including 942 working full-time, have still not received the shot.

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