Ontario Confirms Canada’s First Two Cases of COVID-19 Variant Discovered in UK

Ontario Confirms Canada’s First Two Cases of COVID-19 Variant Discovered in UK
A medical worker administers a nasal swab to a patient at a COVID-19 testing centre in Le Bignon, France, on Dec.22, 2020. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters)
The Canadian Press

A variant of COVID−19 that has ravaged the U.K. is now in Canada, health officials said Saturday as they announced an Ontario couple had been diagnosed with the contagious new strain.

The province’s associate chief medical officer of health said in a news release that the strain of COVID−19 was identified in a couple from Durham Region, just east of Toronto, who have no known travel history, exposure or high−risk contacts.

“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,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe said in a statement.

The Public Health Agency of Canada noted that research into the new variant of the virus that causes COVID−19 is ongoing.

“While early data suggests that these new variants may be more transmissible, to date there is no evidence that they cause more severe disease or have any impact on antibody response or vaccine effectiveness,” the health agency said.

The variant was first identified in the United Kingdom but has since been detected in several other countries, including Denmark, Belgium, Australia, and the Netherlands.

The Ontario government noted the discovery of the variant was “not unexpected” due to international travel, and repeated a call for the federal government to increase testing at airports.

“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 news release read.

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

Canada previously announced a travel ban on all flights arriving from the UK until Jan. 6, 2021 in an effort to contain the variant.

The announcement about the diagnoses came as Ontario began a provincewide lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of COVID−19.