Ontario health officials have confirmed three new cases of the COVID-19 UK variant, bringing the total in the province to six.
Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, announced the new cases at a press conference on Monday.
The first case is a resident from York Region who has recently travelled to the UK, Yaffe said.
The second case is a resident of Peel Region. They have not recently travelled, but have a close contact who has a history of travel to Dubai. Yaffe said the traveller from Dubai is being tested for the variant as well.
The third case is in the City of Toronto. They have recently travelled to the UK.
Yaffe said case and contact management for the three new cases is being performed by the relevant public health units.
“I want to take this opportunity to remind Ontarians to travel only if absolutely necessary. If you do travel, you must maintain your quarantine for 14 days upon return to the country,” Yaffe said.
“I cannot emphasize how important this is. COVID-19 does not know borders.”
Yaffe said that those who test positive for the initial COVID-19 strain and who also have either a personal history of travel or a close contact with a history of travel will be tested for the UK variant as well.
Anyone who is deemed to be part of a “super-spreader event” will be tested for the mutation, too.
The first three cases of the UK variant were discovered in Ontario in late December. A couple from Durham Region and an individual in Ottawa tested positive for the new strain on December 26 and 27, respectively.
Data suggests that the COVID-19 UK variant can be transmitted faster than the initial strain of the virus. However, there is no evidence to suggest that the mutation causes more severe illness or that vaccines will be any less effective against it.
Canada has banned all flights from the UK until at least January 6, 2021.
Yaffe confirmed that, to date, Ontario has not seen any cases of the South African variant of the virus.
On Monday, Ontario reported 3,270 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total seen since the start of the pandemic to 194,232.