Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos attended an urgent meeting of G7 health ministers today to discuss the emergence of the highly mutated Omicron variant of COVID-19.
The new variant has emerged in South Africa, coinciding with an increase in COVID-19 cases in the region.
The news led to border closures and screening in Canada and around the world.
Two cases of the Omicron variant have been found in Ottawa, and public health officials are conducting contact tracing to try to eradicate the transmission.
Officials warn that more cases will likely be discovered in Canada in the coming days.
A spokesperson for Duclos said more information on the virtual G7 meeting would be released later today.
The developments come as countries today debate a new global convention on pandemic preparedness and response at a special meeting of the World Health Assembly.
This is only the second time the group has held such an emergency summit.
If member countries agree, the assembly would begin to develop what would essentially serve as an international treaty on pandemic preparedness.
“Global health security is too important to be left to chance, goodwill, shifting geopolitical currents or the vested interests of companies and shareholders,” said World Health Organization director Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at the start of the summit.
“The best way to resolve them is to conclude a legally binding agreement between nations: an agreement forged from the recognition that we do not have a future but a common future. “
He said the emergence of the Omicron variant underscores the perilous and precarious nature of the global situation.
“Indeed, Omicron demonstrates why the world needs a new pandemic deal. Our current system deters countries from alerting others to threats that will inevitably land on their shores, ”he said.
The idea is to prevent another global crisis like the one posed by COVID-19 and its new, potentially more transmissible variants.
“Our position has always been that we are stronger when we work together,” Duclos said Friday in support of a new convention.
A binding international agreement would help countries work together and make it easier for Canada to share its expertise on the world stage, Duclos said.
“This level of political and scientific leadership is a sign that we can do even better in the future by working with the WHO and other organizations to prevent incidents of future pandemics and to protect Canadians from such things.
The WHO working group on the matter said governments should seek to develop the convention in tandem with efforts to strengthen existing international health regulations.