Another case of UK COVID variant found in Ontario as official warns it 'could very well become the predominant strain'
Published Monday, January 18, 2021 5:15PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 19, 2021 5:10AM EST
Ontario health officials say the U.K. variant of COVID-19 “could very well become the predominant strain” as a new case unrelated to travel is confirmed in the province.
The new case was found in London, Ont., Ontario’s Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe confirmed at a news conference held Monday afternoon.
“We are now reporting a total of 15 cases of the U.K. variant, or B.1.1.7 COVID-19 in Ontario,” Yaffe said. “The most recent case reported residents in London, Ontario and has no history of travel outside of Canada.”
“We do expect more cases to be identified in the weeks to follow, as there is evidence now of community transmission.”
Yaffe added that the new case is “concerning” as the B.1.1.7 strain appears to be much more easily transmittable than other variants.
Modelling data presented to the public last week indicates that if the variant spreads in the community, the number of infections in Ontario could start doubling every 10 days by March.
“It could very well become the predominant strain, we don’t know,” Yaffe said, adding that labs are doing more genomic sequencing and reporting on new COVID-19 variants. “We’re going to do our best to avoid that.”
Last week, health officials said they were unable to find a travel link to three of the 14 cases confirmed at the time.
At least half of those cases were found in York Region, with the first infection confirmed on Jan. 2 in an individual who had returned from the U.K. and tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 22. Three family members in King Township who had dinner with that person subsequently tested positive for the variant.
The three York Region patients who did not have any connection to travel were from Georgina and Richmond Hill.
As of Monday, health officials say that anyone with a travel history or who has a connection to a travel case has been tested for the U.K. variant. Officials are also testing for the strain as it relates to “super spreader events” and are analyzing some tests at random.
Public Health Ontario is conducting genomic sequencing on about 500 to 600 samples per week to look for new variants, officials said previously.
Outside of York Region and London, Ont, cases of the variant have also been detected in Toronto, Durham Region, Peel Region, and Ottawa.
As it stands, no other variants have been confirmed in Ontario.
On Monday, the province logged 2,578 infections of the novel coronavirus, the lowest number of new cases in Ontario since Jan. 1 when 2,476 were logged.