Ontario has confirmed two cases of the fast-spreading COVID-19 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, the province’s Associate Chief Officer Medical of Health announced Saturday.
The cases were detected in a couple in Durham Region with no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts, the Ministry of Health said in a news release. Both individuals are now in isolation.
Modelling and epidemiological studies seem to indicate that the COVID-19 variant identified in the U.K. can spread easier and faster. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously said the variant is 70 per cent more transmissible than current strains, the Associated Press reported.
There is no evidence pointing to the variant causing more severe illness.
“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,” said Associate Chief Officer Medical of Health Barbara Yaffe.
Durham Region’s health department refused to specify in which community the couple lives.
Ontario imposed a travel ban on all flights arriving from the U.K., which is still in effect until Jan. 6. Still, the province is urging the federal government to partner with Ontario to install testing at Toronto Pearson International Airport due to the potential risk of inbound international travellers spreading the variant.
The COVID-19 variant was first identified in the U.K. and has now been detected in Denmark, Belgium, Australia and the Netherlands.
According to the Ministry of Health, Ontario is the first province to identify the variant.