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COVID-19: Peterborough Public Health asks residents to help ‘keep variants of concern at bay’

Peterborough's COVID-19 testing site at Northcrest Arena. Global News Peterborough file

As of Monday morning, Peterborough Public Health (PPH) remained one of a few health unit jurisdictions in Ontario without a confirmed case of a coronavirus variant.

That’s why the health unit is calling on residents to remain vigilant in following public health measures so the region can remain free of variants of concern (VoC) for as long as possible.

“Our health unit remains one of the few areas without a COVID-19 variant case since they were first detected in Ontario last December,” PPH medical officer of health Dr. Rosana Salvaterra said Monday.

READ MORE: COVID-19: 7,100 vaccine doses arrive next week to Peterborough

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“I am asking residents to continue doubling down on public health measures so we can stave off VoCs for as long as possible while we vaccinate our high-risk populations.”

The request to “double down on following health measures” comes just six days after the province lifted the lockdown and stay-at-home order for the area, moving it to the yellow-protect zone.

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But Dr. Salvaterra said VoCs have a higher rate of transmissibility than the dominant form of COVID-19.

“This means we need everyone to wear their masks, maintain two metres physical distance from others, wash your hands frequently, and socialize with household members only.”

Dr. Salvaterra is also strongly urging residents not to travel out of the area, especially to zones where VoCs are present, including the neighbouring Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPRDHU).

Last week, HKPRDHU acting medical officer of health Dr. Ian Gemmill told reporters at his weekly media conference that there were three variant cases within one household in the Port Hope area.

Dr. Gemmill noted he wasn’t concerned with community spread of these specific cases as they were already quarantined together and the first case was contracted outside the jurisdiction.

As for what variant it was, Dr. Gemmill had no information, as the health unit was still awaiting confirmation from the province.

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He did say that it was likely the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first discovered in the U.K, as that is the most prevalent variant in the province.

Meanwhile, PPH continues to monitor the situation closely, noting that all positive COVID-19 tests in the province are now screened for VoCs.

Dr. Salvaterra also noted there are new regulations requiring individuals to comply with the Reopening Ontario Act, not just businesses or organizations.

“Regulation 364 reminds us that any time we are in any business or facility that is open to the public, we must maintain two metres distance from every other person, unless that person is our caregiver or a member of our household,” she said.

“So effectively, this means that sharing a meal or a beverage can only take place with members of our households. We cannot meet a friend for lunch. We cannot arrange to have dinner out with another couple, or with anyone outside our immediate household group.”

READ MORE: Physicians will contact Ontarians 80 and over for COVID-19 vaccination appointments

Vaccinations are ramping up this week as the health unit receives 6,000 Pfizer vaccines and 1,100 Moderna shots.

The Pfizer vaccines will begin the vaccinations of local high-risk healthcare workers and staff working in long-term care homes.

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Those vaccines will be administered at a clinic at Peterborough Regional Health Centre, Dr. Salvaterra told reporters at a virtual media conference last Friday.

The Moderna vaccines are earmarked for the second and final doses for those living in long-term care.

At the Friday media conference, Dr. Salvaterra also said adults over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care will start receiving vaccines in March, as long as the supply of vaccines continues without interruptions or delays.

The health unit continues to work with its municipal partners on the future rollout of the community mass-immunization program which will feature community clinics and four, rotating clinics in Peterborough County.

The province will soon roll out an online registration program for the general public vaccination program.

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