BARRIE, ONT. -- Residents of Barrie are being blocked from visiting two Toronto-area retirement homes. The company that runs the homes calls Barrie a "high alert community" when it comes to COVID-19.

People who have recently been to Barrie or been in close contact with someone who has can't visit either.

It is not clear how many people may be directly affected by changes at Parkland on the Glen in Mississauga and Parkland on Eglinton West in Toronto. Visits were already limited to essential caregivers who must undergo COVID-19 testing.

"These decisions are not made easily as we understand the hardship they can create for our residents and their loved ones," Shannex Incorporated spokesperson Gill Costello said in a statement.

"But our priority must be the health and safety of those who live and work in our communities."

Costello added that taking extra measures is particularly important with a variant of COVID-19 in the province.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has confirmed 10 cases of the U.K. B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant, nearly all connected to a devasting outbreak at Roberta Place Long-Term Care in Barrie.

Another 105 people in the region are suspected of having been sickened by the more contagious strain. Secondary tests to confirm initial screenings are underway. Samples from 110 other COVID-positive patients are being checked for signs of the variant.