Coronavirus: new U.K. variant of COVID-19 found in Middlesex-London

Changing genetic structure to new strain. Named VUI-202012. Vector illustration of process with the spike protein. Getty Images

The Middlesex-London Health Unit confirmed Saturday afternoon that the first case of the U.K. variant of COVID-19 has been detected in the region.

The MLHU reports that it was notified Saturday by the Public Health Ontario Laboratory that a local individual previously diagnosed with COVID-19 has been identified as the region’s first person to be confirmed to have the U.K. variant.

“This is the first indication that the COVID-19 U.K. variant is present in London and Middlesex County. Data from the UK indicates that it may spread up to 50 per cent more easily than other variants,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, Medical Officer of Health with the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

“The best way to protect yourself and the community from further spread is to follow public health advice to the letter and adhere to the ‘Stay At Home’ order issued by the province.”

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Read more: U.K. variant of COVID-19 likely already in Windsor, Ont., hospital chief of staff says

Mackie said people should not make trips out of their homes unless needed and to not have contact with people who aren’t in their immediate household.

The person in the Middlesex-London region who had the COVID-19 variant is no longer infected with the virus and is in their 80s with no history of travel outside of Canada.

At this time the Health Unit said it has not been advised of any other laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 U.K. variant cases in the London or Middlesex County.

The COVID-19 U.K. variant was first identified in Kent, United Kingdom on September 20, 2020; Ontario’s first case of the variant strain was identified in Durham Region on December 26, 2020.

In addition to not travelling outside of Canada, the Health Unit is calling on the community to remain vigilant in preventing the spread of any type of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

As of Jan. 12, 14 cases of the U.K. variant had been confirmed in Ontario, the majority of which were tied to Toronto, York Region and Peel Region.

Ontario’s associate medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe, citing projections from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table said that the new variant could “drive much higher case counts, ICU occupancy and mortality if community transmission occurs.”

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The chief of staff of Windsor Regional Hospital, Dr. Wassim Saad said Friday officials are still awaiting results of DNA sequencing, to see if the U.K. variant or possibly some other variant of the coronavirus could be the reason for a surge in cases.

Saad said their test positivity rate has more-than-doubled in the last four weeks among other factors.

A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Friday warns that modelling suggests the B.1.1.7, the U.K. variant, could become the predominant variant in the U.S. in March.

With files from Jacquelyn LeBel

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