Ottawa confirms 1st case of COVID-19 variant detected in the U.K.

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Ottawa has confirmed its first case of a new variant of COVID-19, first identified in the United Kingdom.

According to Ontario's Ministry of Health, the third case in Ontario is linked to a person in Ottawa who recently travelled from the U.K. British Columbia health officials also reported a case on Sunday, bringing the total in Canada to four.

"The Ottawa Public Health Department has informed the individual who is now in self-isolation. Case and contact management investigation is underway," a news release said.

Individual in isolation since returning

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) said it is aware of the confirmed case, adding that the infected person returned from overseas on Dec. 19 and has been self-isolating since their return.

"At this time, only one high-risk contact (who lives with the individual) has been identified," the health authority said in an emailed statement.

OPH said it cannot disclose additional information about the individual, citing privacy.

The variant has now been detected in multiple countries beyond Britain, including Denmark, Belgium, Australia and the Netherlands.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, early data suggests the new variant may be more transmissible, but there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness or impacts the body's antibody response or vaccine effectiveness

Initial two cases reported Saturday

On Saturday, Ontario confirmed its first two cases of the new variant in a couple from Durham Region, east of Toronto.

The province previously reported that the couple had no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts.

It now says the couple was in contact with a recent traveller from the U.K., information that hadn't been provided in previous interviews.

"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 the news release.

"This is also an important reminder about the need for arriving international travelers to maintain quarantine for 14 days."

The ministry said that with the confirmation of three cases, the federal government should partner with Ontario and begin testing at Toronto's Pearson International Airport "and strengthen oversight of quarantine."

"Regardless of whether federal support is forthcoming, the Ontario government is prepared to act on its own to implement an airport testing program," the news release states.