COVID-19 outbreak reported at Toronto meat production plant, confirmed cases of B.1.1.7 variant

By Lucas Casaletto

A meat production plant in Toronto is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak that the City’s Public Health Unit (PHU) believes is linked to the variant first discovered in the UK.

Toronto Public Health (TPH) says the outbreak occurred at Belmont Meats in North York where there are currently 78 confirmed COVID-19 cases with two of them determined to be of the B.1.1.7 variant.


“Toronto Public Health has communicated to advise cases and contacts that the variant has been identified in this outbreak,” Toronto’s top doctor Eileen de Villa said Monday.

“COVID-19 variants have been with us throughout the pandemic. This is not to minimize the concerns about the three variants that have been talked about so much recently.”

TPH says there is no indication that any of the people involved had recently travelled, or had contact with someone who recently travelled. There is also evidence of secondary transmission of the variant in household member cases associated with an employee of the workplace.

TPH began its investigation on January 26 after being notified of a possible outbreak. The company does not have public-facing operations.

Belmont Meats voluntarily closed last Thursday.

“It is believed about the known variants of concern now that they are more transmissible, they may be able to make some people sicker, they may be able to reinfect people that had COVID-19 and recovered, and finally, that the vaccines developed seem able to produce an immune response despite the variants, although sometimes, at lower levels,” de Villa added.

“We should make decisions for ourselves on this basis for our own self-protection. While variants in viruses do emerge regularly, with respect to COVID-19, modelling and declining case rates in other parts of the world suggest strategies that create distance and limit interaction are still successful even where the variants are present.”

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