U.K. coronavirus variant detected in 2 of 78 COVID-19 cases at Toronto meat production facility

Toronto Public Health is reporting that at least two out of 78 COVID-19 cases at a Toronto meat production facility have been identified as being from the U.K. coronavirus variant strain.

According to an update released Monday afternoon, officials said there are currently 78 confirmed COVID-19 cases as part of an outbreak at Belmont Meats on Signet Drive near Highway 400 and Steeles Avenue West.

Public health staff said two of the cases linked to the outbreak were confirmed to have screened positive for the B.1.1.7 variant.

Read more: Ontario reports under 2,000 new coronavirus cases, 36 more deaths

“There is also evidence of secondary transmission of the variant in household member cases associated with an employee of the workplace,” the statement said.

“At this time, there is no indication that any cases identified in the outbreak had recently travelled or had contact with a person who travelled recently.”

Officials said the investigation of the cases began on Tuesday. The plant, which isn’t open to the public, closed voluntarily two days later.

The statement said everyone impacted by the outbreak was contacted and told to isolate and seek COVID-19 testing.

Read more: Ontario modelling shows coronavirus cases declining, but variant poses ‘significant threat’

According to the most recent data issued by Public Health Ontario, 15 people to date in Toronto with confirmed cases of the U.K. variant.

On Thursday, experts with Ontario’s COVID-19 science and modelling tables said the U.K. variant poses a “significant threat” to the province’s pandemic response efforts.

“The new variants of concern, the mutated SARS-CoV-2 virus, are clearly spreading in the community and will likely be the dominant version of the virus in March,” Dr. Adelsteinn Brown, co-chair of the science advisory table and dean of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, told reporters.

Officials said the variant is likely at least 30 per cent more transmissible and evidence out of the United Kingdom suggests there is potentially a higher chance of death.

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