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

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

Vaccine rollout is focused on health care workers first, especially those dealing with long-term care facilities. (Nathan Denette - Canadian Press)
General public shouldn’t expect vaccines until fall: Interior Health

Interior Health focused on vaccinating long-term and first-line care workers

A mother hold hands with her daughter while sharing about her struggles with addiction during Overdose Awareness Day. (Jesse Major/Black Press file)
Overdose and suicide support group starts in Penticton

Penticton was one of the province’s communities hardest hit by the overdose crisis in 2020

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has given first reading to its 2021 budget. (RDOS image)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen budget to rise by 2.8 per cent

Impact of budget increase will not be the same in all communities or electoral areas

McBain Insurance in Summerland gave a donation of $816 to Angus Place. The money will go towards a new floor in the bathing room in the seniors care facility. From left are Chris Emmons of McBain Insurance, Stacey Schieman of McBain Insurance and Charmaine Kramer of Parkdale Place Housing Society. (Contributed)
Donation to help with bathing room work at Summerland seniors facility

Earlier contribution will be used to replace aging tub at Angus Place

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Kevin Lee Barrett is charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault. (Facebook)
Court hears of victim’s injuries in West Kelowna attempted murder trial

Two-week-long trial continues for Kevin Barrett, accused of trying to kill mother in West Kelowna

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

The steel mills in the Hamilton waterfront harbour are shown in Hamilton, Ont., on Tuesday, October 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Dyer: Stay the course on Carbon pricing

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Voting is the number one, bare minimum way to have your voice heard by government. (File photo)
Jocelyn’s Jottings: Want to make change? Here are some suggestions

As a citizen you have a voice, you just have to know who to talk to

Hedley residents are advised to not drink the water until a pump in one of its wells is fixed. Photo Andrea DeMeer
Hedley residents under do-not-consume-water order due to arsenic levels

Residents in Hedley remain under a do-not-consume-water order, due to higher than… Continue reading

Most Read