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

Penticton Bylaw officer Glenn Smith, as well as resident Zak Laycock (not pictured), received the Governor General Award from the Royal Canadian Humane Association to recognize their heroism in a summer 2019 incident. (Contributed)
Bylaw officer and Penticton resident given awards for intervening in sexual assault

Bylaw officer Glenn Smith said he was simply in the right place at the right time

Alan can be seen picking organic ambrosia apples on his Keremeos orchard, Old Tower Farm. The provincial government has partnered with the farm owners to lease a portion of their orchard to a new farmer. (Old Tower Farm photo)
Budding farmer gets his start on Keremeos orchard

Kanver Brares, 21, will grow the fruits of his labour on leased land at Old Tower Farms

Corsac the cat is up for adoption at Critteraid.
Critteraid hosts three adoption Sundays

More than 40 cats looking for their forever homes

Abigail McCluskey is in the Netherlands training to compete in the World Cup next month. She joins 12 Canadian speedskaters for the international competition later this month. (Dave Holland CSI Calgary)
Penticton speed skater in Netherlands for World Cup

Abigail McCluskey will be skating the long track in the international competition

Summerland Middle School
COVID exposure at Summerland Middle School

The person who tested positive was at school Jan. 11

When people talk about Blue Monday, they really mean Seasonal Affective Disorder, according to CMHA Kelowna. (Pixabay)
CMHA Kelowna offers tips for managing winter blues during COVID-19

CMHA says it’s important to take care of mental well-being during these times

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

A warrant was issued for Darwyn Sellars, 31, on Nov. 4, 2019, according to Black Press. (CrimeStoppers)
List of guilty pleas entered along with North Okanagan shootout

Sentencing delayed against Darwyn Sellars, who pleaded guilty to a rack of charges

Gin voices his view of having his photo taken as Ken and Karleen Kantymir pose with him and his brother Tonic. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Sheep’s quirky antics keep Salmon Arm couple entertained

Until they bought two sheep, Ken and Karleen Kantymir didin’t realize just how social the animals are

Fire crews on scene of hot tub blaze. Michael Rodriguez, Kelowna Capital News.
Workers on concrete pump assist Kelowna homeowner battling hot tub fire

Home owners and neighbours fought the flames with a garden hose

(RCMP file photo)
Arrest made for break-in to the Penticton Herald

Police arrived to see blanket-wearing man holding computers

Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons was appointed to the NDP cabinet as minister of social development and poverty reduction after the October 2020 B.C. election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. job training fund increased for developmentally disabled

COVID-19 has affected 1,100 ‘precariously employed’ people

A heavy police presence near Penticton Secondary last Thursday, Jan. 14 was due to an erratic driver, a woman, 28, who was arrested. (Brennan Phillips Western News)
RCMP arrest impaired driver who rammed car near Penticton school

A 28-year-old woman was arrested at the scene

Heather Lucier, a pastor at Kelowna Harvest Fellowship, speaks to an RCMP officer outside of Harvest Ministries on Sunday, Jan. 10. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna church fined a second time for violating public health order

Harvest Ministries in Kelowna has previously said they will fight the tickets in court

Most Read