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Over 700 COVID variant cases being screened in Toronto; more than 200 case increase

Last Updated Feb 24, 2021 at 5:08 pm EDT

Toronto’s top doctor is warning residents that variants of concern (VOC) pose a serious threat to the city’s ability at curbing the spread of the COVID-19.

Dr. Eileen de Villa said Wednesday that 710 cases are now being screened for VOC – an increase of 200 from earlier in the week.

“When I revealed that figure on Monday, it was 511. In two days, there have been 200 more screened positives with the full expectation that, within the coming days, this will be laboratory-confirmed as variants of concern,” she said. “The screened positive total marches upward daily. That should be a matter of concern to all of us.”

There are currently 72 confirmed VOC cases in Toronto – 71 are of the variant first discovered in the U.K. and one is the variant first discovered in Brazil.

Toronto Public Health says the reproductive number in Toronto is 1.1. This means that each new case of COVID-19 is giving rise to more than one new case of the virus.

“Our epidemic is in a position where it is, once again, growing,” de Villa said. “This is not where we want to be.”

“We need this reproductive number to be below 1. We know that we need to work together to bring that reproductive number to below 0.7.”

COVID-19 variants have also been confirmed in five Toronto shelters and one homeless encampment in the city.

Public health says nine people at four shelters, and four people from an encampment have screened positive for variants.

Toronto is currently still in a lockdown until at least March 9 on the advice of Dr. de Villa.