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U.K. variant requires new safety measures – coalition

Posted: February 12, 2021

(February 11, 2021)

By: North Bay Nugget

The Ontario Health Coalition, citing COVID-19 variant outbreaks in Ontario municipalities, including North Bay, is calling on the provincial government “to immediately provide clear, enhanced and enforced safety measures” to protect residents of the province.

The coalition released tracking information on all the cases of the U.K. variant (B117) it has been able to find public information on, including the outbreak at the Skyline Lancelot Apartments on Lakeshore Drive, where 19 residents and two visitors tested positive for COVID-19, with three of those “likely the U.K. variant.”

As well, the coalition noted the closing of Sunset Park Public School until at least Feb. 22 “after one person infected at the school was contact traced to the apartment outbreak.”

“The spread of the variant in Ontario is happening quite quickly and there are now an initial set of large outbreaks in long-term care (Barrie), food production (North York) and an apartment building (North Bay). It should be of deep concern,” the coalition said in a media release.

The U.K. variant has been traced back to a case in September, and by mid-December, 60 per cent of the cases in the United Kingdom were of the new variant, “overwhelming hospitals and resulting in a hard lockdown.”

The variant is said to be 40 to 70 per cent more infectious and two studies reported in the British Medical Association Journal found it may be associated with a higher death rate.

“The Ford government failed to act quickly enough to stop the huge increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths prior to the second wave,” Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, says.

“It failed again to do so prior to Hanukkah/Christmas. They cannot fail to do so again.”

Since the end of 2020, almost 1,000 staff and residents in longterm care have died of COVID-19, and “many of those deaths could have been prevented with adequate staffing, proper PPE (personal protective equipment), meaningful consequences for for-profit long-term care homes that do not follow safe infection control practices and provide resources for staffing and care.”

Mehra said high community transmission rates “have imperilled the lives of people in longterm care and other congregate care settings. Failure to act quickly enough to reduce the community spread has been a fatal political choice by the Ford government.”

And while the Doug Ford government announced plans Tuesday to open up the province, it did not announce new safety measures to prevent the spread of the U.K. variant.

“Our provincial government cannot simply repeat the same mistakes over and over again. We are calling on the Ford government to immediately provide clear, enhanced and enforced safety measures to protect Ontarians.”

There are now 227 confirmed cases of B117. variant in the province and at least 200 more suspected cases waiting for confirmation.

Three health units in Northern Ontario – North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, Public Health Sudbury and Porcupine Health Unit – are reporting cases with the variant.

The first was found in the Sudbury area Jan. 24 involving a person with a history of international travel.

The first variant reported in the North Bay-Parry Sound region was Feb. 4 and also linked to international travel.

That same day, the Porcupine Health Unit reported a case in an outbreak at Extendicare Kapuskasing.

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