Ontario has confirmed Canada’s first known cases of the U.K. coronavirus variant.
The province’s associate chief medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe made the announcement in a news release Saturday.
Officials said the cases involve a couple from Durham Region with no known travel history, exposure, or high-risk contacts. Both are now in self-isolation.
“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,” Yaffe said.
The virus variant has already been found in many countries beyond the U.K., including the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Australia, officials said.
Is the COVID-19 variant a cause for concern plus 2020 medical highlights
The variant is believed to be more contagious, but it is not believed to cause more severe illness or resistance to the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, officials said.
“With inbound international travel, it is not unexpected to have identified the new variant in Ontario,” government officials said in a news release.
Dr. Peter Jüni, scientific director of Ontario’s Science Advisory Table, said that since it is a community transmission with no known link to travellers means there is a “high probability” more variant cases are in Ontario.
He said if this variant increases the transmission of COVID-19 by only 10 per cent, it could make control of the pandemic “even more challenging.”
“We all need to take the lockdown in the province extremely seriously,” he said.
Health Canada said in a statement the Canadian and global medical communities are actively evaluating the mutations.
The agency said other cases of the variant and other variants “of concern” may be found in Canada.
Coronavirus: Trudeau extends travel ban on U.K. for two weeks amid discovery of new COVID-19 variant
Canada suspended flights from the U.K. on December 20 for 72 hours due to concerns over the new variant and has since extended the suspension to January 6 at 11:59 p.m.
All travellers arriving in Canada must quarantine for 14 days.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.