Public health officials identify first local case of COVID-19 UK variant

WDGPH informed by Public Health Ontario four now-resolved cases in Guelph are confirmed or suspected as UK variant

GUELPH – Many residents may be worried about the inevitable arrival of COVID-19 variants, but public health officials say the first case was actually in the region a month ago.

On Feb. 11, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) officials announced they were told the previous day by Public Health Ontario (PHO) that a now-resolved case was confirmed, after subsequent genetic sequencing, as the UK variant of the virus.

On Feb. 12, public health confirmed there are five related resolved cases that are either confirmed or suspected variant cases – four residents of Guelph and one resident of Toronto.

“These individuals traveled outside of Canada together,” states a WDGPH press release.

“The initial case is resident of (Guelph), who contracted the virus and completed their self-isolation outside of Canada.

“From this initial case, the four additional individuals tested positive (or were suspected positives) and completed their self-isolation upon their return to Canada.”

WDGPH officials say “the investigation is ongoing but, no immediate action from the public is required at this time.”

The initial case received a positive COVID-19 test result on Jan. 13 and the case was considered resolved on Jan. 21 after the individual completed a self-isolation period.

The case was managed as a non-variant case of COVID-19, officials say, but it “was flagged for genetic sequencing by PHO during the period where the provincial testing network was conducting limited screening for COVID-19 variants of concern.”

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer said public health officials act quickly to contact all positive cases to ensure they self-isolate.

“We were fortunate in this instance … Because this individual followed public health guidance, the risk to the community was limited,” stated Mercer.

Public health officials say they have a process in place to address COVID-19 variant cases and contain their spread.

“It’s important that the public understands the risk and follows public health guidance to ensure these strains of the virus don’t spread through our region, put all of us at risk and put further pressure on our healthcare system,” said Mercer.

“Because they are so much more transmissible than the original strain of COVID, they can spread more easily which makes it even more important to not gather together with anyone outside of your own household.”

Public health is advising residents that “gathering with others for even small amounts of time puts you at risk of acquiring a COVID-19 variant.”