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5 new cases of COVID-19 variants identified in Toronto, one confirmed as UK strain

Last Updated Feb 5, 2021 at 8:29 pm EDT

Shiromali Krishnaraj, right, arrives from India and receives a mandatory COVID-19 test at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, February 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette THE CANADIAN PRESS

An additional five COVID-19 cases with the mutations have been identified across two healthcare facilities in Toronto.

Toronto Public Health (TPH) confirmed Friday that one of the five positive cases has been confirmed positive for the UK variant of concern.

TPH is awaiting the lab testing results for the remaining four cases.

TPH says it’s currently investigating a COVID-19 case that screened positive for a variant of concern mutation at Elm Grove Living Centre in Toronto.

“The Public Health Ontario Laboratory is conducting further tests to determine if the case is a variant of concern. This case has no travel history and has not had contact with anyone who has travelled recently. The Elm Grove Living Centre currently has a small and stable COVID-19 outbreak. To date, the outbreak involves three positive residents and eight positive staff members,” TPH said in a release.

A spokesperson from the LTC home tells 680 NEWS the variant was found in an asymptomatic health care worker who quarantined immediately two weeks ago.

RELATED: Province reports 153 COVID-19 variant cases, around 5 percent of cases on Jan. 20 were from new strains

“We are reassured that this healthcare worker was wearing the proper PPE equipment during their shift and had very low-risk contact with residents and other staff,” a spokesperson said in an email.

“We continue with the enhanced environmental cleaning and disinfection and the strict adherence to our rigorous IPAC protocols and practices. We have enough PPE supplies, dedicated isolation rooms, sufficient staffing schedules, and continue with our close hospital partnership and collaboration with Toronto Public Health.”

In addition, TPH says 95 percent of residents and 80 percent of staff at Elm Grove Living Centre have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Our priority remains the ongoing health and safety of our residents, staff, and essential caregivers,” they added.

The health unit is also investigating four separate cases at Baycrest Hospital that have screened positive for a mutation associated with variants of concern. TPH has been informed that one of these cases has been reported positive for the B.1.1.7 variant, known as the UK strain.

“The Public Health Ontario Laboratory is conducting further tests to determine if the other cases are also positive for a variant of concern,” TPH said as part of its release.

“These cases are part of a current COVID-19 outbreak with 16 positive cases, of which 11 are in-patients and five are staff. TPH continues to work with Baycrest Hospital to reinforce IPAC measures to limit further spread of the virus.”

Toronto health officials say the variants are reported to spread more easily and may be more resistant to vaccines and more difficult to detect in testing.

“With the emergence of variants of the novel coronavirus, it is more important than ever that we all follow current public health practices.”

On Monday, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health announced the province’s first confirmed case of another COVID-19 variant, officially designated as B.1.351, detected in South Africa.

Dr. David Williams says the confirmed infection was identified in a man from Peel Region with no travel history or contacts.

It’s unclear how the resident contracted the new strain of the virus. Currently, he is recovering at home.

With files from 680 NEWS reporter Michelle Mackey

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