Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam speaks virtually as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on during a press conference in Ottawa on Friday, May 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam speaks virtually as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on during a press conference in Ottawa on Friday, May 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Lambda variant spreading in South America one of many Canada is monitoring: Tam

Lambda variant first identified in Peru has been confirmed in 11 Canadian cases to date

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the latest variant of interest in the COVID-19 pandemic has popped up in Canada in small numbers.

Tam says the Lambda variant first identified in Peru has been confirmed in 11 Canadian cases to date, but adds it’s too early to know how widespread it is or what impact it could have.

Lambda was first discovered in August 2020, but the World Health Organization only classified it as a “variant of interest” in mid-June this year, after it began appearing in multiple countries and was found to contain mutations that could make it more infectious or resist existing vaccines.

Variants are mutated versions of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which occur naturally as the virus spreads.

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan, says most mutated versions of the virus aren’t problematic but occasionally the virus gets a “lucky” break and mutates in a way that makes it stronger.

She says the vaccines for COVID-19 are so good that even if they aren’t quite as strong against some variants, they are still doing a very good job at keeping most people from getting seriously ill and we shouldn’t expect Lambda to be any different.

—Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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