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COVID-19 variant first seen in U.K. found in Barrie long-term care home, public health unit confirms | CBC News

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Laboratory testing has confirmed that a variant of COVID-19 first detected in the United Kingdom is present at a long-term care home in Barrie, Ont., according to the local public health unit.

This variant is considered highly contagious and can be transmitted easily.

In a news release on Saturday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) said genome sequencing done on Friday has determined that six samples taken from the Roberta Place long-term care home are of the variant that is known as the B.1.1.7 variant. The home is north of Toronto.

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On Wednesday, preliminary testing of the six cases at the home had shown a high likelihood of that they were of this COVID-19 variant.

Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the SMDHU, said in the statement that the development is of great concern.

“The rapid spread, high attack rate and the devastating impact on residents and staff at Roberta Place long-term care home has been heartbreaking for all,” Gardner said.

“Confirmation of the variant, while expected, does not change our course of action. We remain diligent in doing everything we can to prevent further spread.”

The public health unit added in the release: “This variant of concern is more easily transmitted, resulting in much larger numbers of cases in a very rapid fashion.”

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As of Friday, 124 of 127 residents at Roberta Place long-term care home had tested positive for COVID-19, the health unit said. 

Since the start of the outbreak on Jan. 8, the home has seen at least 29 deaths and 87 staff members test positive. 

Two essential visitors and three others have also tested positive. 

The Canadian Red Cross was deployed to the home on Jan. 17 to help stop the ongoing outbreak. 

As of Jan. 16, eligible residents of all long-term care facilities in the region have received their first dose of immunization.

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