Ottawa, December 27: The first two cases of the new coronavirus strain that emerged in the UK earlier this month have been confirmed in Canada, Ontario authorities announced in a statement.

"The cases are a couple from Durham with no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts. Both individuals have been informed and are now in self-isolation as per public health protocols," the Saturday statement says. New Coronavirus Strain: Existing COVID-19 Vaccines Likely to be Effective Against Mutant Variant, Says Dr Shekhar Mande.

According to the release, the first two cases of the new coronavirus variant in Canada were announced on Saturday by Dr Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health.

"With inbound international travel, it is not unexpected to have identified the new variant in Ontario. Ontario is the first province to identify this variant thanks to the proactive work of the Public Health Ontario Laboratory," the provincial authorities said.

Dr Yaffe said as quoted in the Saturday release that Ontarians must now abide by the province-wide shutdown measures, effective starting 12:01 a.m. local time (05:01 GMT) on Saturday, as local authorities investigate the new COVID-19 cases further.

"Durham Region Health Department has conducted case and contact investigation and Ontario is working in collaboration with our federal counterparts at the Public Health Agency of Canada," Yaffe said.

Last week, UK health officials announced that the country had identified a new variant of the coronavirus that spreads faster than other Sars-Cov-2 virus strains. Many countries have suspended passenger travel to and from the United Kingdom in a bid to prevent the import of the new virus strain.

The new coronavirus variant, which infects more easily but does not appear to be more deadly or pose any concerns for vaccines, has already been detected in several countries, including Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, South Africa and Australia.

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