Province says social distancing effective against UK COVID variant

Ontario Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe speaks with reporters at Queens Park, Toronto, December 29, 2020. Image provided by CPAC.

Ontario’s Associate Medical Officer of Health says social distancing is vital to slowing the spread of COVID-19, including a new strain from Britain.

During a media briefing in Toronto on Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Barbara Yaffe provided an update on the total number of coronavirus cases in the province, along with those involving the variant that originated in the UK.

Three cases of the British variant were reported in Ontario over Christmas weekend. Yaffe said two of them involve a couple from Durham Region that had no travel history to Europe.

“The two cases reported on Saturday had contact with a traveller from the United Kingdom,” said Yaffe. “The third case had been reported in an individual in Ottawa who had recently travelled from the UK.”

Yaffe said the three positive cases have been self-isolating and contact tracing is underway.

With the holiday season in full swing, and with New Year’s Eve Thursday night raising the possibility of more people gathering, Yaffe emphasized the importance of keeping celebrations within the home and among immediate family members.

“The public health measures that are in place are protective against that variant,” said Yaffe. “As we all look ahead to Thursday night and the promise of a new year, a new year with more and more people being immunized from COVID-19, please know that we are not over this side of the mountain just yet. We still have some kilometres to climb before we can safely go down the other side.”

The province reported a record number of 2,553 new cases Tuesday morning, with 41 new deaths.