Multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants are circulating globally. In Ontario, both travel-related and community transmission cases of the variants have been identified. Currently, four variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are causing concern. They include:
Research is suggesting that these variants are associated with increased transmissibility (they spread more easily and quickly among people). Multiple cases of each of these four variants have been detected in Ontario.
On-going research is showing that three variants have increased transmissibility. This means they are likely to spread more easily between individuals.
Higher transmission rates mean increased demands on the health care system (i.e., more cases, more hospitalizations, more admissions to intensive care units, and more death).
While evidence is still emerging, there is concern that some of the variants may carry a higher risk of severe illness or death.
Research is ongoing to determine if these new variants cause more severe illness or an increased risk of death.
In the meantime, keep following infection control measures and public health guidance to reduce your risk of infection with the COVID-19 virus.
The two COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are likely to remain effective against the new fast-spreading variants of the virus but research is needed.
In the meantime, keep following infection control measures and public health guidance for avoiding infection with the COVID-19 virus.
All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, change over time through mutation. A mutation can change a virus’s ability to infect people.
The potential for mutations in a virus increases with the number of cases. With over 90 million confirmed cases worldwide, the virus has had abundant opportunity to mutate.
Ontario has implemented a six-point plan to stop and prevent the spread of the new COVID-19 variants. The plan includes:
To view more, visit the Ontario Newsroom.
The provincial diagnostic lab network is ramping up capacity to screen all positive COVID-19 tests in Ontario for known variants within two to three days of initial processing. This new measure took effect February 3, 2021.
Since these new variants are more easily transmitted, more rigorous application of public health measures is necessary:
Scientists are working to learn more about these variants to better understand how easily they might be transmitted, whether they could cause more severe illness and whether currently authorized vaccines will protect people against them.
Currently the variant B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and B.1.617.2 have been detected in our area. For a summary of VOC confirmed cases in Ontario, see Public Health Ontario’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiological Summary.