Ontario has reported three more cases of the U.K. coronavirus variant, bringing the total number of known cases in the province to six.
Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said Monday that all three are linked to travel.
Yaffe said the first case involves a resident of York Region with a recent travel history to the U.K., while the second is a resident of Peel Region who doesn’t have a travel history but was a close contact of a person who travelled to Dubai and tested positive for the coronavirus.
Yaffe said the testing sample from the person who travelled to Dubai is undergoing additional analysis to determine if it is the U.K. variant.
The third case is a resident of Toronto who recently went to the U.K., Yaffe said.
Case and contact management is underway in each instance.
“I want to take this opportunity to remind Ontarians to travel only if absolutely necessary and if you do travel, you must maintain your quarantine for 14 days upon return to the country,” Yaffe added.
“I cannot emphasize how important this is. COVID-19 does not know borders.”
The U.K. variant, which has already been discovered in several countries, is believed to be more contagious, but it is not believed to cause more severe illness or resistance to vaccines.
On Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown for England until at least mid-February to combat the fast-spreading variant.
Ontario has had three other known cases of the variant — two in Durham Region and one in Ottawa, both of which have travel links.
When those were announced late last month, Dr. Vanessa Allen, the chief of microbiology and laboratory science for Public Health Ontario, told Global News she wouldn’t be surprised if more cases of the variant were discovered in the province.
Allen said at the time that Ontario has done the additional testing needed to identify different strains of the virus on less than 10 per cent of confirmed cases, but expected that to increase as officials look to understand the effects of the variant.
Yaffe said Monday that currently the additional testing to identify the U.K. variant is being done on confirmed cases who have had a travel history or link to someone with a travel history or a “superspreader,” and some labs are looking for a “pattern that’s consistent with the U.K. variant” regarding gene targets. Some random sampling is also being done.
Yaffe said Ontario has no confirmed cases of the South Africa variant.
— With files from The Associated Press