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Variant of concern appears for first time in Waterloo region

A strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus first identified in India, has been detected in four cases in Waterloo region
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The Region of Waterloo Public Health and Social Services headquarters in Waterloo.

A strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus first identified in India, has been detected in four cases in Waterloo region.

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the region's medical officer of health, provided the update in her weekly COVID-19 report during a streamed broadcast with regional councillors Wednesday. 

The Indian variant of the virus that causes COVID-19, B 1.617, was recently classified by the World Health Organization as a global variant of concern. 

Of the four cases identified in Waterloo region residents, three were related to travel. The fourth had unknown acquisition.

Wang said appropriate case management has taken place and the cases have been resolved.

"These are previous cases," she said, explaining how the number reflects a change in how Public Health Ontario (PHO) detects and reports variant cases.

It is not an increase in cases, Wang added.

PHO added a second target to its test to look for specific mutations in previously tested samples.

The change at the provincial level means local reporting will not be totally aligned with the province going forward because the region is reporting on local cases of B1.167, Wang said.

"New variants will continue to be detected. This is the nature of viruses. The fewer cases we have, the better we’ll be able to control the variants as they emerge," she said.

Wang emphasized the region is making "strong progress" on its vaccine rollout.

"There’s a lot to feel hopeful for, so we need to stay the course. We know things can change quickly if we relax measures too soon."