BARRIE -- There are now fifteen confirmed cases of the U.K. variant in York Region, and public health officials say the chances of community spread are high.

"We are quite worried," says Dr. Karim Kurji,

"The variant is circling locally. No question about that."

Dr. Kurji says a major concern is how quickly the variant spreads, making it even more challenging to pinpoint where it's coming from.

"They've done the same activities most of us would visited essential businesses we would normally visit, and maybe essential workplaces."

Of the fifteen confirmed variant cases, nine were through local transmission. As of Tuesday, there are four cases in King Township related to travel and household spread. The Town of Georgina has three confirmed cases, Markham with three, Vaughan with two, Richmond Hill with two and a single case in Newmarket.

The health unit says for some of these cases, individuals could have been infected in just under ten minutes.

"Some of the cases have not been engaging in risky behaviour," says Dr. Kurji.

"They may have spent just a few minutes with essential shopping; some have spent perhaps longer periods shopping, like one to two hours."

But Dr. Kurji says the severity isn't reflected in numbers due to the lag in testing for the variant.

"For every one case, we have of the variant. It is very possible that we have several others that have gone undetected," he says.

Dr. Kurji says it's not too late to slow down the spread.