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Omicron variant of

COVID-19 in Canada

  Coronavirus SARS CoV 2
 
Scientifically accurate atomic model of the external structure of SARS-CoV-2. Each “ball” is an atom [Wikipedia]

­On Sunday, November 28, the Ontario government reported that there were two confirmed first cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Ottawa. As of Tuesday, November 30, there are now at least six cases in Canada.

The new variant of concern was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from South Africa on November 24, 2021. It is now raising alarm around the world, causing a wave of new travel restrictions in Canada, United States, and other countries.

In a statement released Sunday, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the confirmation of two omicron cases is a signal that the country’s monitoring system is working but to expect more cases of the variant.

“As the monitoring and testing continues with provinces and territories, it is expected that other cases of this variant will be found in Canada… I know that this new variant may seem concerning,” he said. He added that existing vaccines and public health measures will help to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said border measures could change as the situation develops. It has issued a travel advisory asking all Canadians not to travel to southern Africa for the time being. It indicated that the Government of Canada will continue to assess the evolving situation and adjust border measures as required.

At this early stage, little is known about whether the new variant is more transmissible or dangerous than others. Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert with Florida International University, said that studies are being done, and it is unclear right now if the variant is deadlier than the Delta variant. She said it is best not to let your guard down, especially when going out and about this holiday season.

As with other variants, the WHO and experts say that the most important things people can do to protect themselves are the same as they have been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: follow public health measures. The WHO recommends that people continue to keep enclosed spaces well ventilated, avoid crowding and close contact, wear well-fitting masks, clean hands frequently, and get vaccinated.

Philippines

On November 26, the Philippines suspended flights from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique until December 15 to prevent possible entry of the Omicron variant. The government is still discussing whether more nations should be included on the country’s temporary ban list due to the threat of the new variant.

In the wake of the threat, the government is also eyeing the re-implementation of a policy that requires the mandatory use of face shields in public places. Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) chairman and Department of Health Secretary, Francisco Duque III, already favours this idea. On November 15, President Duterte approved the recommendation of the IATF to lift the mandatory use of face shields – effectively making it voluntary – in areas under Alert Level 1 to 3.

So far, Galvez said the Philippines has yet to record a case of the Omicron variant.