BARRIE -- The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has identified 99 more cases of what it believes to be the highly contagious U.K. COVID-19 B.1.1.7. variant in the region.

It had previously reported seven cases of the variant.

Health officials say most of the new cases are linked to the Roberta Place Long Term Care home outbreak in Barrie, Ont; however, two cases aren't connected.

As of Monday afternoon, more than 200 people have contracted the virus, while 44 residents and one essential caregiver have died at the long-term care home.

"Our investigation into these preliminary results is early, but it appears that two persons have no known link to those individuals we recently identified as positive for the United Kingdom (U.K.) variant," Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said in a release.

"This certainly makes us concerned that the variant may be more widespread, and that in turn means that we need to really take public health measures that prevent spread of the virus much more to heart."

Of the seven previously reported cases, six are related to Roberta Place, while one has had close contact with someone at Bradford Valley Care Community, which is also in an outbreak.

The health unit is investigating whether the Bradford Valley outbreak is due to the U.K. variant, where right now eight residents and fewer than five employees have contracted the COVID-19 virus.

A staff member in the Bayfield Building at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health - which is also in an outbreak - is the second of the two people who tested for the variant without a connection to Roberta Place.

"I'm sharing this information because this variant is on the move in our community and the only way it can move is through people," said Dr. Gardner.

"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."