KINGSTON, ONT. -- Kingston’s top doctor confirms the region is seeing more and more cases of known variants of concern (VOCs).

Dr. Kieran Moore, the medical officer of health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A), says 115 recent tests have come back as variants of concern. Half have been the B.1.1.7 variant—first identified in the U.K.—and the other half have been a mix of the B.1.351 and P.1 variants—first identified in South Africa and Brazil, respectively.

In the past few weeks, 60 per cent of all new cases in the region have been VOCs.

“We have all three variants circulating in KFL&A at this time,” says Dr. Moore. “The majority are the U.K. variant. I’m just surprised to see the other variants are taking up a significant proportion as well. I don’t like seeing them.”

During a media availability Tuesday, Moore said he is concerned about the trend.

“It’s 1.5 times as infectious, these variants, and it’s 1.5 times more deadly than the base strain. I don’t know how well we’ve communicated that to the public,” Moore explained.

“The pandemic has changed. April could be a very deadly month. We all have to regroup and best protect our loved ones, our family. Stay local and stay into the smallest social circle we can.”

Active cases ‘steadily increasing’ says Moore

Kingston has 76 active cases, with 21 new cases announced Tuesday, as well as 9 new cases of known variants of concern.

In all, there have been 986 cases since the start of the pandemic. While there are no local residents in the ICU or on ventilators in Kingston, there are ten COVID-19 patients from outside the region in the ICU at Kingston General Hospital, with more expected soon, according to Moore.

As cases continue to increase across the province, Moore said he is reaching out to churches to make sure they stay within provincial guidelines.

Under the province-wide shutdown, the Government of Ontario currently allows for the 15 per cent maximum capacity in places of worship.

“We see the potential for vulnerable people in our community to be exposed, as many older members of our community often attend these places of worship,” said Moore. “And we have had transmission in places of worship in the past.”

Still, he feels optimistic Kingston can continue to keep numbers low, as vaccines continue to roll out around the region.

“We’ve got a great testing capacity, a community that continues to get tested,” he said. “We really need more time to further protect those that are more vulnerable through immunization.”