Ontario’s first case of a highly transmissible COVID-19 variant that originated in Brazil was discovered in Toronto on Sunday, the day before the province was expected to unveil its plan to emerge from a month-long state of emergency.
The patient, who is now hospitalized, had recently returned from travelling in Brazil and tested positive for the P.1 COVID-19 mutation, Toronto Public Health said in a news release.
“TPH advises Torontonians to be extremely mindful of time spent outside your household with anyone who doesn’t live with you,” the agency said, noting that there are several concerning variants of the virus that are thought to be more transmissible than the original.
Another Toronto resident has tested positive for the B.1.351 mutation, known as the variant of concern first detected in South Africa.
That variant had already been detected in Peel Region, just west of Toronto.
“This case has no recent travel history and has had no known contact with anyone who is a returned traveller,” the public health agency said.
Public health officials have said a third contagious variant — one that first emerged in the U.K. — is far more prevalent in the province than those from Brazil and South Africa.
A single-day snapshot from January found that the variant from the U.K. accounted for 5.5 per cent of all positive COVID-19 cases, and that percentage is expected to rise quickly.
Variants more transmissible
As of Saturday, TPH reported that the city has 27 confirmed cases involving variants of concern.
TPH said it is investigating and managing the cases.
As of last week, the province has been screening all positive cases to see if they can be tied to one of the variants.
As of Sunday, the province had counted 176 confirmed cases of the variant from the U.K., and one of the variant from South Africa, not including Toronto’s new case.
Most of the variant cases are in the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, where an outbreak ripped through a Barrie, Ont., nursing home killing more than half of the residents and an essential caregiver.
Officials say the presence of these variants of concern make public health measures meant to curb the spread of the virus even more vital.
“Scientists and medical professionals are concerned that these variants are more transmissible than the original coronavirus,” TPH said in a news release on Sunday.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, research is underway to find out more about the variants in a bid to understand their transmission and the effectiveness of vaccines against them.