The Ontario government has announced the province’s first known case of the South African coronavirus variant and officials say there is no known link to travel.
Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Monday afternoon that the case — which is still under investigation — involves a resident in Peel Region who hasn’t recently travelled or come into contact with someone who has travelled.
It’s believed the variant is more transmissible than other strains of the virus, but Williams said it’s not clear if it causes more severe illness.
Other cases of the South African variant have been confirmed in Alberta and British Columbia. Williams said most — but not all — of the cases in those provinces have had a link to travel.
Williams said he expects to see more cases of the South African variant in Ontario.
In a news release, Peel Public Health said the first known case involves a man living in Mississauga who is recovering at home.
“I am extremely concerned about the news of this variant in our community, especially with no history of travel,” Peel Region medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh said in the release.
“We are starting to see our cases plateau and community spread of this variant may change this suddenly. I urge all residents to continue to strictly follow public health guidelines and help break the chains of transmission.”
The announcement came on the same day Ontario implemented mandatory COVID-19 testing for international travellers coming into the province in a bid to stop the spread of new strains of the virus.
Provincial figures show that Ontario has 69 confirmed cases of the U.K. variant, which is believed to be more transmissible and possibly more deadly than other strains.
Officials have said they believe the U.K. strain is spreading in the community in Ontario.
Meanwhile, officials also said Monday that every positive COVID-19 test in the province will undergo further assessment to determine if the infection is from a variant of concern.
Williams said the new strains of the virus underscore the need for the public to adhere to health measures.