Province confirms first cases of COVID-19 UK variant in Ontario

 

The province has confirmed the first two cases of a COVID-19 variant that was first identified in the UK.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, announced today (December 26) that Ontario has seen the first two confirmed cases of this COVID variant, which she says has been detected in multiple countries beyond the UK including Denmark, Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands, and now Canada.

The Ontario cases are a couple from Durham with no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts.

Both individuals have been informed and are now in self-isolation as per public health protocols, the province reports.

Ontario is the first province to identify this COVID-19 variant.

“This further reinforces the need for Ontarians to stay home as much as possible and continue to follow all public health advice, including the provincewide shutdown measures beginning today,” said Dr. Yaffe.

“Durham Region Health Department has conducted case and contact investigation and Ontario is working in collaboration with our federal counterparts at the Public Health Agency of Canada.”

The province says it is “not unexpected” to have identified the new variant in Ontario due to inbound international travel.

On Monday, December 21, the federal government restricted travel from the UK for 72 hours in an effort to keep the contagious new strain out of Canada.

"We focused on the new variant of COVID-19 identified in the UK, and we have decided to implement new border restrictions in order to keep you — and people right across the country — safe," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the evening prior (December 20).

According to the province, modelling and epidemiological studies suggest that the COVID-19 variant can spread easier and faster, but there is no evidence that it is more likely to cause severe illness.

There is also no evidence to suggest that the Health Canada-approved vaccines will be any less effective against the new variant.

Health Canada has currently approved two COVID-19 vaccines: The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which began distribution in Ontario earlier this month, and the more recently approved Moderna vaccine.

The province is continuing to call on the federal government to implement testing at Pearson Airport in Mississauga.

“Recognizing the potential increased risk that inbound international travelers may pose with this new variant, the province continues to call on the federal government to urgently partner with Ontario to implement testing at Toronto Pearson International Airport,” the province said in a statement.

“Regardless of whether federal support is forthcoming, the Ontario government is prepared to act on its own to implement an airport testing program.”

The Ministry of Health will continue coordinating with the Public Health Agency of Canada and other jurisdictions to monitor the developing situation.

With files from The Canadian Press

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