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Two cases of UK COVID-19 variant confirmed in Ontario

Last Updated Dec 26, 2020 at 9:08 pm EDT

Health officials in Ontario say two cases of the COVID-19 variant that first showed up in the UK have been confirmed in the province.

The cases are a couple from Durham Region, just east of Toronto, with no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts, according to provincial officials. Both individuals have been informed and are now in self-isolation as per public health protocols.

“With inbound international travel, it is not unexpected to have identified the new variant in Ontario,” Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said in a statment. “Ontario is the first province to identify this variant thanks to the proactive work of the Public Health Ontario Laboratory.”

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Toronto, says he wouldn’t be surprised if more cases of this variant strain start to show up in Canada

“I think its fair to say that if the appropriate tests are done, there will be more and more of this genetic variant found probably in many parts of the world. It’s probably more widespread in Canada than those two cases,” he tells 680 NEWS.

Bogoch feels Canada is in better shape than other places when it comes to insulating ourselves from the virus.

This COVID-19 variant has now been detected in multiple countries beyond the UK, including France, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia and Japan.

Modelling and epidemiological studies suggest that the variant first identified in the UK can spread easier and faster, but there is no evidence that it is more likely to cause severe illness. There is no evidence to suggest that the Health Canada-approved vaccines will be any less effective against the new 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.

Canada has imposed a travel ban on all flights arriving from the UK until January 6, 2021 and Ontario is currently in a province-wide lockdown.

Premier Doug Ford has called on the federal government to urgently partner with the province to implement testing at Pearson International Airport.

Health Canada says less than two per cent of all cases reported to date – or just over 6,000 of the more than 528,000 COVID-19 cases – have been attributed to those who travelled outside of Canada.