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The emergence of the highly contagious COVID-19 variants has prompted Ontario's Ministry of Health to introduce stricter self-isolation and school screening requirements.

In a news release Tuesday, Public Health Sudbury & Districts said enhanced self-isolation requirements are in place for all household contacts of individuals who have even one symptom of COVID-19.

"Under the new guidance, all household members of an individual with even one symptom of COVID-19 are required stay home and self-isolate until the individual with symptoms receives a negative COVID-19 test result or receives an alternate diagnosis by a health care professional," the health unit said in the release.

"If the individual with symptoms does not seek COVID-19 testing, all household contacts must isolate for 14 days from their last contact with that symptomatic individual."

The provincial COVID 19 self assessment and COVID-19 school and child care screener have been updated to include the change and also requires anyone who has a new or worsening symptom of COVID-19 — even if only one symptom — to stay home and self-isolate until:

- They receive a negative COVID-19 test result.

- They receive an alternative diagnosis by a health care professional.

- Or it has been 10 days since their symptom started and they are feeling better.

“By taking these additional measures, we can better protect our community from the very real threat posed by COVID-19 variants of concern,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, medical officer of health.

“The success of enhanced public health guidance for screening and self-isolation relies on everyone’s cooperation. We recognize the impact these requirements can have on individuals and families, but the consequences of variants of concern gaining a foothold in our communities warrants decisive action. These decisions are not made lightly."

The rate at which the new variants can spread is alarming, the release said, so it is more important than ever to contain the virus as much as possible.

"Through our choices and actions, we can make it much more difficult for COVID-19 to spread," the health unit said. "Everyone can recommit to the behaviours that prevent transmission and continue to follow public health guidance."

For more information or if you have questions, visit phsd.ca/COVID-19 or call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705-522-9200, toll-free 1-866-522-9200.