New U.K. strain of COVID-19 could already be in Canada, says Dr. Anthony Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci says he believes the new strain of the COVID-19 virus that is circulating widely in the U.K. is probably already in both Canada and the United States.

“I would not be surprised that it already is at low levels in other countries that have not yet detected it, including Canada, including the United States,” he said. 

The top infectious diseases doctor in the U.S., who has been part of the White House’s advisory panel on COVID-19, told CBC’s The National that given the strain is so dominant already in parts of southeast England, it would not surprise him if it is soon detected on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. 

“Can’t say for sure, but I would not be surprised if, as surveillance picked it up, someone came out and said, you know, we do have it in a certain part of a country — whether it’s in Canada or the United States.”

The variant is not the first new mutation of the pandemic virus to emerge, but is said to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the previously dominant strain in the United Kingdom.

Still, doctors, including Fauci, are stressing that it does not appear to cause more severe illness and that it is unlikely to be resistant to the COVID-19 vaccines. 

“It does not appear to increase the virulence of the virus,” Fauci told The National, “namely making it a more serious, deadly virus. And it doesn’t appear at all to interfere with the protective effect of the vaccine.”

BioNTech is testing the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with Pfizer against the new strain of the virus as it prepares to send 12.5 million doses to EU countries by the end of year.

BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin said the company is testing whether the vaccine is effective against the variant strain and expects results in the next two weeks.