Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health confirmed on Monday that it has received the first lab confirmed B.1.1.7. case of COVID-19, which is a new, more easily transmissible variant of the virus discovered in the United Kingdom.
The new variant was first detected in Ontario in late December.
Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer of health at KFL&A Public Health, is now advising anyone who has travelled outside of the region—beyond Hastings, Prince Edward, Leeds, Grenville, or Lanark counties—has had visitors from outside of the region, or has moved to the region in the last 14 days to consider voluntary, asymptomatic testing for COVID-19.
“We know that one in five individuals with COVID-19 don’t have symptoms but carry and transmit COVID-19,” Moore said in a statement from KFL&A Public Health.
“With this new variant detected in our area, it is crucial that we alter our COVID-19 control strategies and recommend asymptomatic testing to those who have travelled or had visitors from outside our region to detect positive COVID-19 cases early and to isolate these cases to prevent rapid spread of the virus and outbreaks in our community.”
Asymptomatic testing will be available for a limited period of time, based on the outcomes of the initiative and the capacity of the local assessment centre and laboratory.
KFL&A Public Health has also implemented a mandatory 14-day isolation period for all confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, as well as a lower threshold for considering contacts to have had high risk of exposure to the virus. Contacts will now be considered at high risk if they’ve been within 2 metres of someone with COVID-19 for any period of time while unmasked.
They’re also recommending individuals avoid travel outside the region, wear a 3-layer face covering, and maintain a 2 metre distance from others in public spaces.
“Please remain vigilant and continue to adhere to public health measures over the coming weeks and months as schools begin in-person learning,” Moore said.
“The continued efforts of individuals and families to stay home, stay local, and to not travel unless for essential purposes will help keep the number of positive cases low in our area and help our community stay safe until vaccines are available to all.”
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