MIDDLESEX CENTRE, ONT. -- The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) is reporting 13 new cases of COVID-19, the lowest daily count seen since November, but also two new variant cases.

No new deaths were reported, leaving the region with a cumulative 5,973 cases, 5,587 resolved, 206 active and 180 deaths.

Though there have been a few daily counts in the teens in recent weeks, the last time the region saw a daily case count lower than Friday's was when nine cases were reported on Nov. 23, 2020.

But MLHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie says there have been two more cases identified as being COVID-19 "variants of concern," bringing the total in the region up to six cases.

"We don't have details at this point in terms of which variant…We don't have the whole genome sequencing to know whether this is the U.K., Brazil or South African variant of concern, but these two things happening together (reopening and variant cases), obviously creates an interesting and challenging situation for our community."

It could take up to a week to know which variant the most recent two cases may be.

But Mackie said both were in travellers, one from Dubai and the other from the Dominican Republic, raising concern that travel could be a driver of cases in a potential third wave.

Meanwhile the province announced Friday that Middlesex-London and Elgin-Oxford will reopen in the red-control zone of the COVID-19 response framework when the stay-at-home order is lifted on Feb. 16.

There are six active outbreaks at local seniors' facilities, and one school outbreak at Clara Brenton Public School. The Thames Valley District School Board has also confirmed three new school cases.

Southwestern Public Health is reporting five ongoing outbreaks at Elgin and Oxford county institutions, with one new outbreak at Valleyview Nursing Home in St. Thomas where there is one staff case.

No new cases or deaths were reported Friday at the homes with the most significant outbreaks, Caressant Care Retirement Home in Woodstock or PeopleCare Tavistock.

Here is where the cases stand in the region based on the most recent publicly available data:

  • Elgin-Oxford – two new, 110 active, 2,418 total, 2,244 resolved, 64 deaths
  • Sarnia-Lambton – five new, 61 active, 1,909 total, 1,803 resolved, 45 deaths
  • Haldimand-Norfolk – two new, 39 active, 1,379 total, 1,296 resolved, 39 deaths
  • Grey-Bruce – three new, 18 active, 672 total, 654 resolved, one death
  • Huron-Perth –one new, 36 active, 1,281 total, 1,197 resolved, 48 deaths (one new death)

The most serious ongoing outbreak in Huron-Perth is at Seaforth Manor, which has seen 75 cases to date.

Across the province, 1,076 new infections and 18 deaths were reported, but officials say data migration issues mean Toronto's numbers are being underreported.