OTTAWA -- Renfrew County's top doctor warns the region will soon move from the Yellow-Protect to Orange-Restrict zone now that the COVID-19 variants of concern have been identified in the region.

The health unit confirmed on Sunday that variants of concern have been identified in Renfrew County and District (RCD).

In a statement, the Renfrew County and District Health said one third of the cases in the last week have been confirmed to be the B.1.1.7 variant of concern first identified in the United Kingdom.

"With the concerning increase in the number of cases and now cases related to VOCs in RCD, we will soon move from yellow to orange, and hopefully not into a red zone," said Dr. Robert Cushman, Acting Medical Officer of Health in Renfrew County.

"We are urging everyone to do their part to help stop the spread."

The health unit says initial cases of variants of concern can be attributed to travel and working outside of Renfrew County, followed by community spread within the region.

Variants of concern spread more easily from person to person and may be associated with changes in both severity of illness and death. 

The Renfrew County and District Health Unit reported eight new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and two cases on Sunday. Public Health Ontario listed one variant of concern under investigation in Renfrew County on Sunday.

"Everyone, regardless of symptoms, is asked to only go out for essential reasons and to work remotely where possible," said Dr. Cushman.

"We need to ensure that we are taking all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, to keep our family, friends and residents safe."

Starting April 2, there will be new rules for dining at bars and restaurants in Renfrew County in a bid to limit the spread of COVID-19. The health unit introduced new rules stating patrons will only be allowed to dine out with members of your own household indoors or on the patio.