Province confirms first two cases of Omicron variant in Ontario

Published November 28, 2021 at 6:15 pm

Two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, first detected in South Africa, have been officially identified in Ontario.

Both of the cases were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria.

Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management and the patients are in isolation, according to a statement today from Health Minister Christine Elliott and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore.

“Ontario is prepared and ready to respond to this new variant. Our hospital and intensive care capacity remain stable and the province continues to report one of the lowest rates of active cases in the country,” said Moore and Elliott.

“The Ontario COVID-19 Genomic Network is continuing to actively monitor for all potential variants circulating in the province, including the Omicron variant, and is conducting genomic sequencing on 100 per cent of eligible COVID-19 positive samples.”

The province is continuing to urge residents to get their vaccine (including children 5 to 11 for whom the Pfizer vaccine was recently approved), and is advising those who are eligible to get a booster dose for added protection.

While the province has typically taken a travel ban approach against COVID-19 variants, some experts are saying the response to the Omicron variant should focus on global vaccine equity instead.

Caroline Colijn, a mathematician and epidemiologist at Simon Fraser University, previously noted that the Omicron variant has already been detected in countries outside of the targeted region and said it’s only a matter of time before it’s found in Canada.

She worries countries such as Canada, that responded by imposing travel bans, risk disincentivizing transparency from countries where the new variants are found.

At this time, Pearson Airport in Mississauga and other airports across the country are restricting travel from southern Africa.

The federal government announced on Friday (Nov. 26) that all foreign nationals who have travelled through South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini or Mozambique in the last two weeks will be banned from entering Canada.

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