MONTREAL -- Quebec has recorded its first case of the U.K. variant of COVID-19.

'Variant S' was detected in a person whose family member returned home to Quebec after a stay in the United Kingdom.

The family member returned on Dec. 11, and tested positive two days later. They came into prolonged contact with three family members, all of whom tested positive for COVID-19.

Variant S -- which researchers say could be 70 per cent more contagious than the regular coronavirus -- was discovered in one of those three family members.

On Tuesday morning, Health Minister Christian Dubé said on social media that the discovery of the new variant “does not change usual isolation measures,” in the province. 

The case is being investigated by regional health offices in Montreal and the Eastern Townships. 

The new variant was detected by the McGill University Health Centre and confirmed by the Laboratoire de santé publique du Québec.

The Institut national de santé publique du Québec is working on setting up a surveillance program to identify new variants of SARS-COV-2.


The U.K. variant has already made appearances elsewhere in Canada.

Three other provinces have confirmed cases of variant S in recent days, with three cases in Ontario, one in Alberta and one in British Columbia as of Tuesday morning, although public health experts warn there are likely more cases going undetected.

The latest case in Canada comes as Yukon Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost says the territory has received its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 vaccinations in Ontario are expected to return to full operations today after being scaled down over the holidays.


On Tuesday, Dubé took a firm stance regarding Quebecers vacationing abroad during the holidays, warning that the situation at home is fragile. 

"We have a community transmission that remains strong, and the number of hospitalizations continues to increase," said the minister during a press conference following the discovery of the U.K. variant. 

"The only way not to hit a wall in January is to follow Public Health guidelines."

Both provincial and federal governments have recommended against non-essential travel out of the country. People who have travelled abroad are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Flights from the United Kingdom to Canada have been suspended since Dec. 21.

The Trudeau government, which initially adopted the measure for 72 hours, extended the halt in travel until at least January 6.

With files from the Canadian Press.