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

A Sooke woman is speaking up after she was almost tricked by a lottery scam, claiming she had won $950,000 with Set for Life Lottery. (File Photo)
‘I wanted it to be true so badly’: Sooke woman almost falls for lottery scam

88-year-old received letter stating she had won $950,000

Sidney Pier was one of two sites in Sidney as the Netflix series Maid shot in Sidney in late 2020. The show starring Margaret Qualley was one of 38 productions shooting in Greater Victoria. (Bob Orchard/Submitted)
Head of Greater Victoria film commission warns of lost economic opportunity

Kathleen Gilbert said without full funding, region will not be able to attract productions

The new Malahat Skywalk is expected to be completed by this summer. (Submitted graphic)
Malahat Skywalk expected to be complete by this summer

$15-million project will see 650-metre elevated wooden pathway constructed

Victoria Police Department vehicles outside the headquarters building. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bastion Square attack leaves victim with life-altering injuries

Victoria police looking for witnesses, information

NEW CUTLINE Pacific FC fans fill the stands during a game at the former Westhills Stadium
 Starlight Developments has purchased the naming rights from the City of Langford for the next 10 years.(Gazette file photo)

Pacific FC slid into third place in the league after defeating FC Edmonton 1-0 at Westhills Stadium on Saturday. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Langford sells stadium naming rights for $500,000 to Starlight Developments

10-year sponsorship deal largest in the history of Langford, says mayor

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

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

Gin, one of the Kantymirs’ two sheep. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Sheep start up ATV, sit in cars and go for walks in Salmon Arm

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

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 2nd time for violating public health order

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

Emma Nunn from Alberni Valley Rescue Squad waits at the summit of Mount Arrowsmith for the rest of the AVRS rope rescue team on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY DAVE POULSEN, AVRS)
UPDATE: Injured hiker among three rescued in the dark from Mount Arrowsmith

‘It was a very bad, very precarious spot to be able to locate them’

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

B.C. driver’s licence and identity cards incorporate medical services, but the passport option for land crossings is being phased out. (B.C. government)
B.C. abandons border ID cards built into driver’s licence

$35 option costing ICBC millions as demand dwindles

Most Read