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Public health officials say a large cluster of COVID-19 cases has been linked to multiple social gatherings in the Waterloo region.

Waterloo’s health unit says at least 23 cases were identified in the cluster, while 19 others are considered high-risk close contacts of confirmed cases.

The unit says one of the cases has tested positive for a COVID-19 variant, which has contributed to the high transmission rate within the cluster.

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The health unit says the social gatherings were held indoors between March 4 and March 7 at three private residences without physical distancing and masks.

It says some of the cases have been linked to Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo.

It says the University of Waterloo has seen on-campus transmission of the virus and has declared an outbreak.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says people across the province can’t let their guard down as the province’s science advisers warn of a third wave of COVID-19. Ford said that people must continue to follow public-health guidance even as vaccines become more widely available. The Canadian Press

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