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1st case of fast-spreading COVID-19 variant detected in York Region

UPDATE: Residents urged to stay home after King Township case identified
Jan. 6, 2021
Kim Zarzour

The first case of the fast-spreading COVID-19 variant first identified in the United Kingdom has appeared in York Region.

Public Health Ontario has notified the local health department that a King Township resident tested positive Dec. 22 for the super-contagious variant.

It is the first confirmed case in York Region.

Ontario reported Canada’s first two known cases of the variant Dec. 26 in a couple from Durham Region, who had been in contact with someone recently returned from the U.K.

Patrick Casey, spokesperson for York Region Public Health, provided more details. Here’s what you need to know:

Where did the resident contract this U.K. strain and was anyone else infected?

The individual had recent travel to the U.K.

Three household contacts were identified, including an individual who is also a current confirmed case of COVID-19 following their own travel to Mexico.

Both international trips were work-related and not personal/leisure trips.

The remaining two household contacts have since tested positive for COVID-19; additional testing is being completed on all three other positive cases to assess if their strains are also the variant.

There have been no close contacts identified outside of the household

What are the local implications of this latest development?

This scenario serves as an important reminder that anyone who returns from international travel must self-isolate for 14 days as part of the federal Quarantine Act, even if you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19.

It also reinforces the need for everyone to stay home, limit trips outside of your home to essential reasons only and continue following all public health advice

What steps are health officials taking to reduce further spread?

Federal and provincial public health are expanding surveillance efforts to closely watch for further signs of the variant in Canada and Ontario.

The Government of Canada has suspended entry into Canada of all commercial and private passenger flights from the U.K. until Jan. 6, at 11:59 p.m.

Starting on Jan. 7, all air passengers five years of age or older, including Canadians, will be required to show a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours prior to boarding their scheduled departure to Canada.

Public Health Agency of Canada will continue to re-evaluate based on the evolving situation.

What can we do to help?

It is extremely important to provide all history of contacts and contact information if you test positive for COVID-19; this is crucial to the prevention and control of this infection.

If you have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, regardless of which strain the virus is, it is essential you stay home and self-isolate for 14 days.

Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice.

And o help everyone stay safe, download the COVID Alert app.

Should we be concerned?

Current studies are underway to determine the impact of this new variant, including its transmissibility, severity, diagnostic testing and vaccine effectiveness.

To date, there is no indication the vaccines will be less effective against this variant, but early information suggests it may be more contagious.