Confirmed cases of new COVID-19 variant in Canada are 'unsurprising'

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A new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 that first surfaced in the U.K. has been detected in Canada, something health experts had already predicted.

Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, announced Saturday that there are two confirmed cases of the coronavirus variant in Durham region. The patients who tested positive are a couple, now in self-isolation.

“I’m not surprised,” Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, told CTV News Channel Saturday, in the wake of the news. “Obviously, this variant has been circulating for some time before it was actually recognized.”

In a news release announcing the cases, Dr. Yaffe said 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 beginning today.

Durham Region Health Department has conducted case and contact investigation and Ontario is working in collaboration with our federal counterparts at the Public Health Agency of Canada."

But even before today’s confirmation that this coronavirus variant is in Canada, health experts suspected it was already here. 

"It's spread to other countries," Ronald St. John, the former director-general of the Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), told CTV News Channel earlier on Saturday.

"Since it's been found since September, there's no reason why people coming since September haven't been able to bring that new strain to Canada." 

The new variant that emerged from the U.K. has since been found in other countries around the world, including France, Japan, Israel and Sweden.

On Dec. 20, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a restriction on flights from the U.K. to Canada in an effort to prevent the new variant from coming to Canada. That restriction has since been extended to Jan. 6.

-- with files from CTV News --