A third case of the new COVID-19 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom has been confirmed in Ottawa, provincial health officials reported on Sunday.
The person recently travelled from the U.K., according to the Ministry of Health. Ottawa Public Health has informed the individual, who is now in self-isolation, and case and contact management is underway.
“This further reinforces the need for Ontarians to stay home as much as possible and continue to follow all public health advice, including the provincewide shutdown measures,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said in a statement.
“This is also an important reminder about the need for arriving international travellers to maintain quarantine for 14 days.”
On Saturday, the first two cases of the new strain of COVID-19 were identified as a couple from Durham Region. Officials initially said that the two had no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts.
However, the ministry confirmed on Sunday that the couple had been in contact with someone who travelled from the U.K. – a piece of information that the ministry noted was not provided to officials in the earlier interviews.
“It is critically important that individuals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 provide all history of contacts and contact information to their public health unit. This is crucial to the prevention and control of this infection,” the ministry said.
Ontario was the first province in Canada to identify the variant. British Columbia reported its first case of the new strain on Sunday. B.C. officials said the person returned to the province from the U.K. on Dec. 15.
Early studies of the new variant suggest that it can spread easier and faster, but there is no evidence at this time that it can cause severe illness.
There is also no evidence to suggest that the approved vaccines will be less effective against the new strain.
The province continues to call on the federal government to partner with them and implement testing at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Canada suspended flights from the U.K. until Jan. 6.
CTV News’ infectious diseases specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy said it is possible that the new strain arrived in the county before the travel restrictions were put in place.
“I think it really behooves us to be much, much more cognizant about masking and distancing and hand washing and limiting our contacts. We can’t underestimate just how important that is,” Sharkawy said.
“I don’t want anybody to panic, but I think it’s really important to understand that this is something that could get out of control, even more so than it is right now. It’s within our reach to be able to stop it, so let’s do that together.”
Ontario reported 2,005 new COVID-19 cases and 18 new deaths on Sunday.