Provincial health officials on Sunday reported a third case of the new COVID-19 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom (U.K.)
A person from Ottawa who recently travelled to the U.K. has been confirmed to have the new variant. The individual is in self-isolation. Ottawa Public Health said contact management is underway.
“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,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said in a statement. “”This is also an important reminder about the need for arriving international travelers to maintain quarantine for 14 days.”
There is also a new development regarding Ontario’s first two cases of the new COVID-19 variant identified as a couple from Durham Region. On Saturday, health officials initially said the two had no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts.
The health ministry learned on Sunday the couple had been in contact with someone who travelled from the U.K. – information the ministry said was not provided to officials in the earlier interviews.
“It is critically important that individuals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 provide all history of contacts and contact information to their public health unit. This is crucial to the prevention and control of this infection,” the ministry said.
The province continues to call on the federal government to urgently partner with them to implement testing at Toronto Pearson International Airport. The Ontario government said regardless of whether federal support is forthcoming, the province is prepared to act on its own to implement an airport testing program.
There is a travel ban on all flights arriving from the U.K. until Jan. 6.
The province reported 2,005 new COVID-19 cases and 18 additional deaths on Sunday.
A couple from Durham Region have become Ontario’s first confirmed cases of the new COVID-19 variant, which was initially identified in the United Kingdom.
In a news release Saturday, Dr. Barbara Yaffe said the couple has no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts.
The news release said the couple was in self-isolation, and added, with inbound international travel, it is not unexpected to have identified the new variant in Ontario.
“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.
“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.”
The Ontario Ministry of Health said on Saturday that there is no evidence to suggest the vaccines will be any less effective against the new variant.
Studies suggest the variant is more infectious, but the health ministry said there is no evidence at this time that it is more likely to cause severe illness.
After the variant was detected, Canada imposed a travel ban on all flights arriving from the U.K. until Jan. 6.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said more cases of the new variant are expected to be found in the country.
“As these two cases did not travel outside of Canada, it is important to follow public health measures and limit contacts with others, to reduce the transmission of the virus and any of its variants in communities. The best way to prevent infection with any variant of COVID-19 is to follow public health measures,” the federal agency said in a statement.
The federal government currently has a monitoring program in place with the provinces and territories to identify new COVID-19 variants in the country, such as the ones identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
“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,” PHAC said in a statement on Saturday.
“More research is required to confirm these findings, and the Canadian and global medical, public health and research communities are actively evaluating these mutations.”
The new cases come hours after Ontario began a second lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic.
There were more than 2,100 new COVID-19 cases reported by the province in the past 48-hours, and an additional 81 deaths during that period.