COVID-19 ‘variant of concern’ identified in region

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Southwestern Public Health confirmed on March 4 that routine laboratory testing had identified a COVID-19 variant in two residents.

Both cases were within the same home. Both followed strict self-isolation requirements. And both are now considered resolved.

It is believed that the virus was acquired through out-of-country travel.

A COVID-19 “variant of concern” (VOC) is a mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus for which there is evidence of impact on public health practices or the care and treatment of an affected individual.

The impact of the VOC in the Oxford-Elgin region has yet to be determined, but may affect the rate of transmission, severity of illness, and/or the COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness to protect against it.

There are currently at least three known VOCs circulating internationally and within Canada. When variants transmit more easily from person to person, there is the risk of significant strain on the health system including increasing cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations.

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Public Health Ontario routinely tests three per cent of all positive COVID-19 cases across the province and up to three samples when a setting is declared to be in an outbreak.

“The goal in a region like ours, with very few VOCs, is to contain and prevent further spread,” said medical officer of health Dr. Joyce Lock in a media release.

“Our team is providing enhanced follow-up and increased vigilance to do our best to avoid a VOC from entering high priority settings like congregate living, health care settings, schools, or large essential workplaces.

“My message does not change. Continue to avoid close contact with people you don’t live with, if you have any symptoms – even mild symptoms – stay home except to get a COVID test. Wash your hands often, wear your face covering properly. COVID-19 is still with us and we do not want these variants to get a foothold in our region and reverse all of your hard work.”

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