Residents of a condominium in Mississauga, Ont., were tested on Monday after a cluster of five cases of the coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa was discovered at the building.

A mobile rapid testing unit van from Switch Health enters the underground parking of a condominium building where Peel Region public health workers tested residents, after five cases of the South African coronavirus variant were confirmed. (Carlos Osorio/REUTERS)Residents of a condominium in Mississauga, Ont., were tested for COVID-19 on Monday after a cluster of five cases of the coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa was discovered at the building.

The widespread floor-by-floor testing was made available for residents “out of an abundance of caution,” and to prevent any further rapid spread of the B1351 variant, according to Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel Region’s medical officer of health.

“We are trying to find every possible case that might be in the building at this point in time and ensure that this is being contained,” Loh said on Monday.

“We’re essentially trying to identify how the transmission may have occurred but I think what’s very concerning about this specific situation is that the cases involved do not appear to know each other, have not appeared to have significant close contact and don’t report it in the extensive interviews we’ve done with them.”

Ashleigh Hawkins, spokesperson for Peel Region, said in an email on Tuesday night that testing is now complete and was conducted floor by floor. 

Hawkins could not say how many residents were tested.

The building has been identified by CityTowers Property Management Inc., its property management company, as Chicago Condominiums at 385 Prince of Wales Dr.

Loh said there are concerns that the variant spread through common elements in the building such as corridors and elevators.

Loh said 1,800 people are affected — including residents and staff at the condominium — and they have received a letter from Peel Public Health to make them aware of the situation.

Linda McKinley, a resident in the condo building where Peel Region public health workers are testing all residents, stands among reporters in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday. (Carlos Osorio/REUTERS)

“Given that the 1351 variant has not been detected elsewhere in the Region of Peel and is not necessarily circulating widely in the province of Ontario, this is an attempt to really try to get ahead of the variant,” he said.

While the floor-by-floor testing was voluntary, Loh called it “highly recommended.”

The testing was scheduled to happen from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET.

The province’s first case of the B1351 variant was detected in Peel Region on Feb. 1. As of Sunday, the province had seen six cases of the B1351 variant and 303 cases of another highly transmissible variant known as B117, which was first detected in the United Kingdom.

In a statement on Monday, the board of directors of Chicago Condominiums said the building has more than 400 units and testing was conducted with the help of Region of Peel, Ontario Health, Paragon Security, and CityTowers Property Management Inc.

“We requested door-to-door testing as it is more convenient and private for our community, and it minimizes transmission through the aggregation of crowds within our building,” the statement reads.

WATCH | Covid-19 variant cluster found at Toronto-area condo building:

Health officials are scrambling to contain an outbreak of the COVID-19 variant first discovered in South Africa inside a Mississauga, Ont., condo building. At least five people have been infected so far. 1:57

“Management and the Board of Directors are communicating with Region of Peel health officials on a daily basis. Peel Public Health were on-site on Sunday, February 14, 2021, for a comprehensive building inspection, and it was noted that our building has already taken extreme measures to ensure the health and safety of our residents and staff.”

Since last March, the board said it has made changes to the operation of the building to ensure it is safe for residents. These changes include:

Closure of communal spaces (amenities, gym, pool, media room, etc.). Installation of protective glass around the common areas of the building. Limit on number of building visitors and contractors/ Implementation of parcel delivery lockers, and prohibited delivery personnel access to residential area. Implementation of contact-less entry and exit access points. Distribution and availability of masks and sanitization stations around the building. Enforcement of all public health recommendations, including the wearing of masks. Increase of cleaning and sanitization of common areas of the building. Re-configuration of the elevator system to limit occupancy. Penalization of contractors who violate the health and safety protocols of our building. “We are always open to implementing further measures to support to the health and safety of our residents and staff. We are working closely with the Region of Peel to implement additional recommended safety precautions, such as installation of additional hand sanitizer stations on every floor, and floor markings to enforce social distancing,” the board said.

“The privacy of our residents is paramount.”

The province, meanwhile, announced on Friday that stay-at-home measures would lift for 27 other health units on Tuesday, allowing them to move back to Ontario’s colour-coded pandemic response framework. 

Toronto, Peel and York regions, and the North Bay-Parry Sound district will remain under the current shutdown until at least Feb. 22, according to the province.

“Even as the province moves toward the return to the provincial framework on Feb. 22, we need to be very clear that any reopening or loosening of measures at this point in time risks explosive growth to the variant and we must be very careful,” said Loh.