Head of science table says it is 'not too late' to prevent more variants from spreading in Ontario
TORONTO -- The head of Ontario’s science advisory table says that authorities were too late in introducing measures to prevent the B.1.1.7 variant from spreading in Canada and must not repeat that mistake again.
Dr. Peter Juni made the comment to CP24 during an interview on Thursday afternoon.
He conceded that officials did not act quickly enough to prevent the variant first detected in the United Kingdom from being brought to Canada and eventually becoming dominant but he said that it is “not too late” to keep out other variants of concern.
“The situation we're in right now is we're decreasing numbers and what we just want to just make sure is that we only have to struggle with B.1.1.7. and with nothing else of that nature,” he said. “It makes perfect sense right now to be careful with the borders. The problem in the past was we were always too late. Not only us in Ontario or Canada but everywhere.”
Nearly 83 per cent of the 3,424 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Ontario on Thursday screened positive for the B.1.1.7 variant, which is both more infectious and deadlier than the previous strain of COVID that was prevalent during the first and second waves.
So far Ontario has detected 36 cases of the B.184.108.40.206 variant first identified in India but it has not yet begun reporting occurrences on a daily basis, in part because the strain has not been formally dubbed a variant of concern.
Speaking with CP24, Juni expressed optimism about a recent decline in case counts in Ontario but warned that things could quickly change, especially if new and more problematic variants were to take hold.
“If we do the wrong thing now and say ‘Hooray, everything is gone, we're good.’ we derail everything. So we need to be very careful, it's just a few more weeks,” he said. “We really need to be serious about the next few weeks and what will come to our help now is the vaccines but only if we keep you know restricting ourselves and doing the right thing.”
Premier Doug Ford has previously called on the federal government to restrict non-esential travel into Pearson International Airport in order to prevent new variants from arriving in the country.
The feds have not taken that step to date, though they have banned flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days.
In a message posted to Twitter on Thursday, Ford said that the federal government “failed to stop the UK variant from getting into Ontario” and needs to take action to prevent other variants from spreading here.
“If our border measures were in-fact among the 'strongest in the world,’ we wouldn’t find ourselves in this position,” he said.