Residents of a condominium in Mississauga, Ont., will be tested after a cluster of five cases of the coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa was discovered at the building.
The widespread floor-by-floor testing will be available for all residents of the building “out of an abundance of caution,” and to prevent any further rapid spread of the B1351 variant, said Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel Region’s medical officer of health.
“We are trying to find every possible case that might be in the building at this point in time and ensure that this is being contained,” he told CBC News Monday.
“We’re essentially trying to identify how the transmission may have occurred but I think what’s very concerning about this specific situation is that the cases involved do not appear to know each other, have not appeared to have significant close contact and don’t report it in the extensive interviews we’ve done with them.”
Loh said there is cause for concern that the spread of the variant was through common elements in the building such as corridors and elevators.
Loh said 1,800 people are impacted — including residents and staff at the condominium — and they have received a letter from Peel Public Health to make them aware of the situation.
“Given that the 1351 variant has not been detected elsewhere in the Region of Peel and is not necessarily circulating widely in the province of Ontario, this is an attempt to really try to get ahead of the variant,” he said.
While the floor-by-floor testing is voluntary, Loh said it is “highly recommended.”
The testing will be conducted on Monday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET.
The province’s first case of the B1351 variant was detected in Peel Region on Feb. 1. As of Sunday, the province has seen six cases of the B1351 variant and 303 cases of another highly transmissible variant known as B117, which was first detected in the United Kingdom.
The province announced on Friday that stay-at-home measures would lift for 27 other health units on Tuesday, allowing them to move back to Ontario’s colour-coded pandemic response framework.
Toronto, Peel and York regions, and the North Bay-Parry Sound district will remain under the current shutdown until at least Feb.22, according to the province.
“Even as the province moves toward the return to the provincial framework on Feb. 22, we need to be very clear that any reopening or loosening of measures at this point in time risks explosive growth to the variant and we must be very careful,” said Loh.