“Variant of concern” shows up in Southwestern region-updated

Southwestern Public Health announced on Thursday, March 4, that two residents of the Elgin, St. Thomas and Oxford region had fallen ill with a COVID-19 “variant of concern,” but have already recovered.

The health unit believed the virus was caught by the pair, who reside together, during travel outside of Canada.

Megan Cornwell, on behalf of Southwestern, said both had followed “strict self-isolation requirements.”

She would not identify which community they were from, saying that was consistent with Public Health Ontario guidelines.

A “variant of concern” was a mutation of COVID-19 that caused more serious health effects and was more contagious than the standard virus.

At least three such variants were circulating around the world and in Canada, she added. (Those are commonly referred to as South Africa, United Kingdom and Brazil strains.)

She identified the variant involved at B1.1.7. (That variant caused considerable concern in the United Kingdom.)

Public Health Ontario routinely subjected three percent of all positive tests for COVID-19 to additional scrutiny, to determine if variants were involved, Ms. Cornwell continued.

Medical Officer of Health Doctor Joyce Lock urged local residents to continue to follow pandemic restrictions, including the use of face masks and frequent handwashing, to help prevent variants from taking root locally.

More information if and when it becomes available.