People walk through the snow in the village of Blue Mountain Ski Resort in The Blue Mountains, Ont., on the first day of a provincial lockdown amid a 12-day trend of over 2,000 daily COVID-19 cases, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

People walk through the snow in the village of Blue Mountain Ski Resort in The Blue Mountains, Ont., on the first day of a provincial lockdown amid a 12-day trend of over 2,000 daily COVID-19 cases, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Ontario confirms two cases of COVID-19 variant first discovered in UK

First time the more contagious strain detected in Canada

Ontario on Saturday confirmed its two first cases of a variant of COVID-19 first identified in the United Kingdom, marking the first time the more contagious strain had been detected in Canada.

The province’s associate chief medical officer of health said in a news release that the cases are a couple from Durham Region, just east of Toronto, with no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts.

“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,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe said in a statement.

The new variant is believed to spread easier and faster than the original version of the disease but is not believed to be more deadly.

The provincial government said in a news release that there is no evidence to suggest that the Health Canada-approved vaccines will be any less effective against the new variant.

The variant was first identified in the United Kingdom but has since been detected in several other countries, including Denmark, Belgium, Australia and the Netherlands.

The Ontario government noted the discovery of the variant was “not unexpected” due to international travel, and repeated a call for the federal government to increase testing at airports.

“Recognizing the potential increased risk that inbound international travelers may pose with this new variant, the province continues to call on the federal government to urgently partner with Ontario to implement testing at Toronto Pearson International Airport,” the news release read.

“Regardless of whether federal support is forthcoming, the Ontario government is prepared to act on its own to implement an airport testing program.”

Canada previously announced a travel ban on all flights arriving from the UK until January 6, 2021 in an effort to contain the variant.

READ MORE: People yearn to connect across borders amid pandemic holiday

The announcement came as Ontario began a provincewide lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19.

The province has reported more than 2,000 cases 12 days in a row, including 2,142 new positive tests on Saturday and 2,159 cases from Christmas Day.

There were also 81 additional deaths during those days, the provincial government said.

Under the new rules that came into effect on Boxing Day, restaurants in Ontario can only provide takeout, drive through and delivery, including the sale of alcohol.

Ontario has joined Manitoba and Quebec in closing non-essential retail stores for in-person shopping, while supermarkets and pharmacies must follow rules for distancing and limiting capacity.

The new rules are having an effect on Boxing Day shopping, which is forcing bargain hunters in many parts of the country to look online for deals instead of lining up and crowding into stores in person.

Other provinces have put limits on in-store capacity as officials urge Canadians to stay home and limit contacts as much as possible to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Ontario’s new measures remain in effect in southern Ontario until Jan. 23, but will lift for the less-affected northern regions on Jan. 9.

In Quebec, a province-wide lockdown went into effect Friday, with businesses deemed non-essential ordered to remain closed until at least Jan. 11. The province did not publish data on the number of new infections or deaths on Friday or Saturday.

Government websites for Manitoba and Saskatchewan also indicated those provinces would not provide updates on Saturday.

Alberta reported an estimated 1,200 new cases on Dec. 24 and about 900 on Christmas Day, according to a modified update provided by the province’s chief medical officer of health.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Twitter that hospitalizations and intensive care numbers also increased slightly each day.

New Brunswick reported two new cases on Saturday, and said both were related to travel.

Officials also reported possible exposure sites on three recent Air Canada flights into New Brunswick.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

CoronavirusHealthOntario

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Five properties have been added to the Lake Country fire protection zone, after council moved to expand the local service area Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Google Maps)
Lake Country expands fire protection zone, covering 5 exposed properties

The properties petitioned to join the local service area after being left out ‘for reasons unknown’

VSAR’s Air Rescue One unit assisted in a rescue in West Kelowna May 3, 2021. (VSAR screenshot)
VIDEO: VSAR’s Air Rescue One team assists in West Kelowna Rescue

The Vernon Search and Rescue helicopter team pulled off a successful rescue Monday

Peachland resident and cleanup volunteer Lloyd Stinson Sotas holds up a discarded TV riddled with bullet holes. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
PHOTOS: Peachland residents clean up community watershed

More than 70 people gave back to Mother Earth by assisting with the cleanup

Kelowna Toyota is located at 1200 Leathead Road. (BLack Press Media file)
Kelowna Toyota’s auto service department closed due to COVID-19 exposure

The dealership’s sales department is still open and is operating under regular business hours

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Kelowna OK Tire closed due to COVID-19 exposure

The business will remain closed until May 11

Two e-scooters parked on the sidewalk along Water Street in downtown Kelowna on Monday, May 3. Scooters parked on walkways are causing accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick summary of the stories that made an impact from May 3 to 5

City of Vernon Coun. Dalvir Nahal proposed two blocks of Main Street be closed to bolster recovery for downtown businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
Vernon’s ‘support local’ Main Street closure would cost city $24K, staff say

Bylaw costs, loss of parking revenue and equipment logistics behind price tag

Officials are surveying the streets of Vernon to get a better sense of the issue of homelessness in the city, as part of the province’s point-in-time homeless count for 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Province conducts homeless count in Vernon

It’s the first time Vernon has been included in the provincial homeless count

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

A proposed development would see two four-storey affordable housing complexes erected on Adair Street in Armstrong, next to the Nor-Val Arena. (Google Maps)
Local tenants to be prioritized for Armstrong affordable housing project

Staff have drafted an expression of interest to find a developer to move forward with on the project

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Most Read