Canada's Ontario finds two cases of virus variant first seen in UK

TORONTO (Reuters) - Health officials in Ontario said Saturday that two confirmed cases of the new variant of coronavirus, first discovered in the UK, have occurred in the Canadian province.
Scientists say the variant is about 40% -70% more transmissible than the original strain. Several other countries, including Australia, Italy and the Netherlands, said they had discovered cases of the new strain.
The Canadian high-risk cases identified in a southern Ontario couple with no known travel history, exposure or contact came when the province was locked down on Saturday.
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"This adds to the need for Ontarians to stay home as much as possible and continue to follow all public health advice, including the statewide shutdown beginning today," said Dr. Ontario deputy chief medical officer Barbara Yaffe in a statement.
Ontario reported 4,301 new cases for the past two days on Saturday, with the province recording more than 2,000 cases per day for 12 consecutive days.
Last week Canada extended a ban on passenger flights from the UK to January 6 and expanded control and surveillance measures to include travelers from South Africa, citing the rise of the more contagious variant.
Scientists say there is no evidence that vaccines currently in use - including one made by Pfizer and BioNtech - or other COVID-19 vaccines under development do not protect against this variant.
Canada started rolling out the Pfizer vaccine earlier this month and began distributing Moderna Inc's COVID-19 vaccine across the country last Thursday.
Canada has reported 541,616 cases of COVID-19 to date, including 14,800 deaths.
(Reporting by Amran Abocar; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Daniel Wallis)

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