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U.K. variant confirmed in COVID-19 outbreak at Barrie long-term care home

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: New evidence shows UK variant may be more deadly, Boris Johnson says' Coronavirus: New evidence shows UK variant may be more deadly, Boris Johnson says
WATCH ABOVE: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Friday that new evidence suggested that the coronavirus variant first identified in his country may be associated with a higher degree of mortality. – Jan 22, 2021

Health officials say the U.K. coronavirus variant — believed to be more contagious — has been confirmed in an outbreak at a Barrie long-term care home that has seen all nearly residents infected.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said genome sequencing on six COVID-19 samples from Roberta Place long-term care home have identified the variant.

Roberta Place has seen 127 residents test positive for coronavirus, as well as 84 staff. Officials previously said there were a total of 127 residents at the home, but in a press conference Saturday afternoon, Dr. Charles Gardner, Simcoe Muskoka’s medical officer, said two residents have not tested positive.

Read more: COVID-19 outbreak worsens at Barrie, Ont., nursing home as 27 deaths reported

Gardner said it’s believed all residents who have tested positive have the variant.

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Thirty-two residents have died.

Two essential visitors and three “external partners” have also tested positive, officials said.

Gardner said 21 household members of either workers in the home, or workers of partner agencies who have gone in the home, have COVID-19 as well.

Read more: Lab testing identifies COVID-19 variant as part of deadly Barrie, Ont., nursing home outbreak

On Wednesday, health officials confirmed that preliminary evidence suggested that a COVID-19 variant was a part of the outbreak. Further testing confirmed it was the U.K. B.1.1.7 version of the virus, which is believed to be more transmissible and possibly more deadly.

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Gardner said there were some troubles in the early stages of the outbreak with regards to cohorting, in part because of how quickly the virus spread and how quickly staff members got infected.

It’s unclear exactly how the COVID-19 variant made its way into Roberta Place, but health officials have said a staff member came into close contact with someone who travelled internationally and tested positive for COVID-19.

Gardner said Saturday that there weren’t any violations of either provincial health advisories or the Quarantine Act.

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He said there are no requirements for a person to isolate just because they may have come in contact with an asymptomatic traveller. He said his understanding is that the traveller did not leave their home and sought to isolate within the home.

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He said the staff member who came into the long-term care facility after having possible contact with the traveller was asymptomatic when they went to work.

Gardner said public health requirements may need to be tightened as a result of the new variant.

The traveller has not yet been confirmed to have had the variant, Gardner added.

“The rapid spread, high attack rate and the devastating impact on residents and staff at Roberta Place long-term care home has been heartbreaking for all,” Gardner said in a statement earlier Saturday.

“Confirmation of the variant, while expected, does not change our course of action. We remain diligent in doing everything we can to prevent further spread.”

— With files from Daina Goldfinger

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