testing and tracing the key to the border, according to an expert – .

testing and tracing the key to the border, according to an expert – .

BARRIE – Travel bans put in place in seven southern African countries in an attempt to keep the new omicron COVID-19 variant out of Canada must be backed up by stricter testing and tracing at the border, according to an expert in the domain.

Saskatoon epidemiologist Dr Nazeem Muhajarine told CTV News Channel that travel bans implemented on Friday are expected to include “very, very careful and very comprehensive border screening of travelers entering the country.”

“I really think that’s what we need to focus on,” he said. “Test, trace [and] if necessary, isolating our travelers more than any kind of carte blanche in our travel bans.

“These are very rough, hammer-like measurements,” he continued, “And I think we need a little more precise and more data-driven measurements, like testing, plotting in place. “

Mihajarine’s remarks come as Canada has confirmed its first two cases of B.1.1.529 – or omicron variant – in Ontario.

In a statement Sunday evening, Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said the two cases of the omicron variant were detected in Ottawa.

“Both have been reported in people who have recently traveled from Nigeria,” the statement said. “Ottawa Public Health is managing the cases and the contacts and the patients are in isolation. “

Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said that, as surveillance and testing continues across the country, “more cases of this variant are expected to be found in Canada.” .

“I know this new variant may sound concerning, but I want to remind Canadians that vaccination, combined with public health and personal protection measures, is helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and its variants in our communities. ”Said Duclos. in a statement Sunday.

Officials on Friday announced a travel ban barring foreign travelers from seven southern African countries from entering Canada.

Border measures have been tightened for anyone who has traveled to South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia.

Authorities are also asking anyone who has traveled to any of the countries in the past 14 days, who is now in Canada, to take a COVID-19 test and self-isolate.

Canadians or other permanent residents seeking to return must also self-quarantine for 14 days and undergo enhanced screening and testing.

Global Affairs Canada has also issued a travel advisory, urging Canadians not to travel to the region.

Canada is just one of many countries, including the United States, Great Britain and the European Union, that have put in place stricter travel rules for fear of the omicron variant.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr Theresa Tam said the omicron variant was “unusual” because it has a high number of mutations.

“Due to the potential for increased transmissibility and the possibility of increased resistance to vaccine-induced protection, we are concerned about this new variant and are closely monitoring developments,” she said. to journalists.

Tam said labs across the country had been “alerted” to the new variant, but admitted it would be “very difficult” to prevent the omicron variant from reaching Canada.

Dr Zain Chagla, associate professor of medicine at McMaster University, told The Canadian Press that “blind closures” did not make scientific sense, adding that the variant may have been detected for the first time in South Africa because they have a good infrastructure for genomic surveillance. .

“It’s probably been around for a while,” he told the outlet. “It really doesn’t make sense that we are using rigid travel bans as a means of preventing cases, versus mitigating the spread. “

Chagla said this underscores the urgent need for a united global effort to increase access to vaccines globally.

He said Canada should assess whether it should import more vaccines for booster shots aimed at low-risk populations, or whether it should make efforts to get vaccines to countries in need.

“If we’re going to repeat the same mistakes this time around, and keep revaccinating our lower risk populations and forgetting about our global homework, I’m pretty sure we’re going to see this scenario repeat itself over and over and over again,” a- he declared.


The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday named omicron a “variant of concern.”

On Sunday, the WHO said it was not yet clear whether the variant, which was first reported in South Africa, is more transmissible than other variants, or if it causes more serious disease. .

“Preliminary data suggests that there is an increase in hospitalization rates in South Africa, but this may be due to the increase in the overall number of people infected, rather than a specific infection,” said the ‘WHO.

Muhajarine echoed this, saying we are in the “very early days” of studying the variant.

“I think scientists, lab scientists are really going into experiments to find out how transmissible this variant is, and in particular whether this variant will have an advantage in evading antibody immunity to some extent. vaccine-induced, that first line of defense that vaccines and the body produce by preventing variants from entering cells, ”he said.

With files from The Canadian Press


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