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Health officials in British Columbia say specific students and staff at a Maple Ridge high school will receive COVID-19 tests after a person at the school had close contact with someone carrying a new variant of the virus that causes the illness.

Fraser Health says Garibaldi Secondary School remains open while efforts are under way to manage the exposure because the variant is not one currently in the community.

Variants of COVID-19 are known to spread more quickly, but doctors say they do not seem to cause more severe illness, interfere with the effectiveness of vaccines or affect testing for the virus.

The health authority says the person who originally developed the variant version does not attend Garibaldi Secondary and all affected individuals at the school have been told about the need for a test.

A statement from Fraser Health says it is working to identify any other connected cases and ensure immediate isolation of those involved to prevent further transmission.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix are set to provide an update on COVID-19 cases in B.C. after confirming 514 new cases of the virus on Friday, and five more deaths.

The large number of COVID-19 infections in some places makes it more likely for new variants of the virus to emerge. Science Reporter Ivan Semeniuk explains how vaccines may not be as effective against these new strains, making it a race to control and track the spread of variants before they become a dangerous new outbreak.

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