“Today, the province of Ontario confirmed two cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which have been reported in people who have recently traveled from Nigeria. Ottawa Public Health is handling cases and contacts and patients are isolated, ”the statement said. These are the first cases of the omicron variant confirmed in Canada, coming just days after the country implemented new travel restrictions for foreign nationals who had visited several southern African countries in the previous two weeks.
These travel restrictions went into effect on Friday. The omicron variant was first identified by South African researchers and has caused worldwide concern.
Little is known about the new variant, dubbed omicron by the World Health Organization and labeled as a variant of concern. It is linked to a rapid increase in cases in a South African province.
It is not yet known whether the variant is more transmissible, or more dangerous to the health of those who catch it, than the other variants of the coronavirus.
“The best defense against the omicron variant is to stop it at our border. In addition to the measures recently announced, we continue to urge the federal government to take the necessary steps to impose point-of-arrival testing for all travelers, regardless of their location. come to better protect yourself against the spread of this new variant, ”said the statement from Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health for the province.
The provincial government has urged residents to get vaccinated, including with booster doses, and to continue to follow public health guidelines.
“Ontario is ready and ready to respond to this new variant.
More probable confirmed cases: Minister of Health
In a statement released on Sunday, Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the confirmation of two omicron cases is a signal that the country’s surveillance system is working but more to be expected. case of the variant.
“As surveillance and testing continues with provinces and territories, it is expected that more cases of this variant will be found in Canada,” Duclos said.
“I know this new variant may sound concerning,” he added, but said existing vaccines and public health measures were helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
In a separate statement, the Public Health Agency of Canada said border measures may change as the situation evolves.
“The Government of Canada will continue to assess developments and adjust border measures as necessary,” he said.
WHO urges countries to keep borders open
The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement on Sunday summarizing what it knows about the variant. He said he was studying whether the variant is more transmissible than those currently spreading, such as delta, as well as whether omicron increases the risk of reinfection, as “preliminary evidence” suggests.
The idea of travel bans in response to new variants has long been criticized by some as an ineffective measure to stop the spread of the virus. South Africa said the travel measures were “unwarranted”.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said the imposition of travel bans targeting southern Africa “attacks global solidarity”.
“COVID-19 is constantly exploiting our divisions. We will only get the best from the virus if we work together to find solutions, ”Moeti said.
In an interview on Rosemary Barton en direct Released ahead of the government announcement on Sunday, WHO Special Advisor Dr Peter Singer said the UN agency believes travel restrictions should be “risk-based and time-bound” , part of a complete package, rather than the only step taken to mitigate the risk of a new variant.
“It is certainly not a quick fix,” he said.
Singer said the most important things Canadians can do to protect themselves are the same as they have been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: get vaccinated and monitor public health measures.
“It is a call to individuals to lift their guard. There are things people can do to help with any variant or version of this virus, including omicron. “
He urged Canada and other countries to redouble their efforts to provide resources for the global vaccination campaign, saying this is the best way to stop the spread of omicron and its potential future variants.