Southern Alberta’s south Asian community concerned about racism over new COVID-19 variant

CALGARY — Now that a new variety of the COVID-19 virus has surfaced in Alberta, residents of the south Asian community are anxious that the development could lead to racism against members of their cultural group.

The province confirmed the first case of the B.1.6.17 variant, referred to as a “double mutant” variant, in Alberta on Thursday.

The strain is fuelling a rapid increase in the number of cases in India and has already prompted the federal government to install restrictions on air travel to the country.

On Thursday, India reported more than 332,000 new cases of the disease as officials said hospitals were running out of beds, oxygen and medications needed for COVID-19 treatment.

In the meantime, some members of the south Asian community living in southern Alberta are worried that the situation will result in prejudice and racism towards them, much in the same way that the Asian community was targeted.

“What happens when you isolate or talk about one country or the other? The immigrants here sometimes feel the effect of that from the local people that paints the whole community in that way and that is not always true,” said Surya Acharya, president of the India-Canada Cultural Association of Lethbridge.

According to data on the Alberta government’s website, there are four variants of COVID-19 in the province: the B.1.1.7 U.K. variant, the B.1.351 South African variant, B.1.617 India variant and the P.1 Brazilian variant.

While one patient in the Edmonton Zone was confirmed as the first infection of the India variant, there are more than 20,000 cases of the U.K. variant in the province. Officials say that variant of concern has become the dominant strain here.

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(Supplied/Alberta Health)

The Canadian government says all flights from India and Pakistan are suspended for the next 30 days in order to combat the spread of the variant.

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