Preliminary cases of a COVID-19 variant have been discovered at a long-term care home in Barrie that is currently combating an outbreak of the deadly virus.

Laboratory testing has identified a variant of the novel coronavirus in six swabs at Roberta Pace, according to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU).

“The variant strain testing is a two part test, and at this time, the first test indicates a very high probability that they are of a variant strain of concern. The second part of the test is a whole genome sequencing test to determine the exact strain,” reads a statement from SMDHU on Wednesday.

It has not yet been confirmed if the cases are linked to the new U.K. variant of COVID-19 that has emerged across the province in the past month. 

The unit said the results of the second test are expected in the next three to four days.

“This development underscores the need for everyone to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19 and help protect our long-term care homes, especially as we find more evidence of new variants in our communities,” Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton tweeted on Wednesday.

On Jan. 8, Roberta Place declared an outbreak of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

As of Wednesday, 63 residents were infected at the home, along with 53 staff members. Ten residents have died, nine of which were a result of the virus, a spokesperson from the home told CTV News.

On Monday, the SMDHU ordered temporary leadership of Roberta Place to be given to Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital to bring the outbreak under control.

The hospital will help ensure that staffing, training, and equipment and supplies are in place so that the facility can continue to respond to and control the outbreak.

“The impact of this outbreak on the facility has been tragic and these interim results of a variant are extremely concerning for everyone,” Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the SMDHU said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The health unit, Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, and Roberta Place, as well as our partners including the Red Cross, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, community physicians are all working together to contain the spread of the virus and protect residents and staff,” he added.

The home does not currently have a request for assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces, a spokesperson confirmed to CTV News earlier this week.

As of Monday, all residents and staff at the home had been tested for COVID-19.

A mobile vaccine clinic was at the home over the weekend and provided vaccines to all those who were able and willing to be inoculated.

On Monday, Ontario’s Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffee confirmed there were a total of 15 cases of the U.K. variant across the province, with the most recent case reported in London.

“We do expect more cases to be identified in the weeks to follow, as there is evidence now of community transmission.” Yaffe said during a news conference.

Yaffe added that the new case of the variant is “concerning” as it is believed to be at least 50 per cent more contagious than other strains.