Calls for police-enforced ring around City of Barrie as concerns mount over COVID-19 variant
BARRIE, ONT. -- As the Simcoe Muskoka health unit reports 40 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, plus three more seniors' deaths, the concern shifts to the COVID-19 variant and its threat to the region.
A Sudbury doctor voiced his concern regarding the situation, suggesting the province follow New Zealand's lead and create a police-enforced bubble around the City of Barrie to contain the spread.
"They mandated that police form a ring around Aukland, and not a lot of people could go in or out. The variant comes from England, so there is only one way for it to get here, and that's international travel. So travel is the magic word, and we have to not let this variant organism spread," Zalan said.
Roberta Place, a Barrie long-term care home, has been the hardest hit, with nearly 50 deaths among residents.
The more contagious strain of COVID-19, B.1.1.7., the U.K. variant, has been identified in several cases at the facility.
The health unit has yet to confirm the source of the outbreak but said a staff member who had close contact with someone who recently travelled was one of seven to test positive for the variant.
"We asked people not to travel outside of their own region and outside their own province," Zalan added. "But then, they did not give the authority for police forces to enforce this. Enforce what you have asked citizens to do," he stated.
"I have long advocated that there needed to be some sort of restrictions when you have a lot of transmission happening. I know that such a move would be unpopular," added Dr. Charles Gardner, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit chief medical officer of health.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford's office stated in an email to CTV News on Wednesday, "We are monitoring the prevalence of these variants very closely. That's why the Premier continues to advocate for stricter measures at our borders, including a temporary ban on direct flights from countries where new variants are detected.
We continue to urge people to stay at home and only travel when absolutely necessary, but tighter restrictions around the City of Barrie is not something that has been recommended by our public health officials at this time."
Gardner said the best practice is to obey the province's safety measures.
"We need to absolutely follow the stay-at-home order so that we can protect ourselves, those who are more vulnerable and our health care system.
We need to assume that a variant of this virus is everywhere and do everything we can to drive it out," he advised.
Meanwhile, a confirmed case of the more-infectious COVID-19 variant in Kingston has been linked to Simcoe Muskoka.
The medical officer of health for the Kingston area said the person who tested positive for the so-called U-K variant had travelled to Simcoe Muskoka and is believed to have been infected in the community.
Dr. Kieran Moore said the case is not believed to be connected to a variant outbreak at a long-term care home in Barrie.
Moore said the Kingston case had been linked to four others in his region, but all those people have recovered, and the variant is not believed to have spread beyond that group.