The new variant of concern Omicron, which was detected in Southern Africa last week, has made its way to Canada after two travelers visiting Nigeria brought it back with them unknowingly.
The World Health Organization is classifying the Omicron as the B.1.1.529 variant.
There hasn’t been any discovery so far of the new variant in Northwestern Ontario, and it is still new, but the region's top doctor did provide information on the new strain that she was given.
“There is lack of general understanding of this new variant because it has a large number of mutations there is a possibility that it can lead to problems such as vaccine escape, increased risk of re-infection or more severe disease,” said Dr. Kit Young Hoon, Medical Officer of Health for the Northwestern Health Unit.
Though there is a lack of information so far on the new variant, Young Hoon did add that one thing that is clear is the variant is highly transmittable and significantly more transmittable than previous variants.
The region's top doctor does want residents to stay vigilant when they travel.
“People have been traveling more, and we do know that type of global and provincial travel is occurring, therefore, there is the possibility of spread to our region. We do have to remain vigilant and mindful particularly when traveling to follow public health measures. At this point the risk is low,” noted Young Hoon.
To date, Canada has reported five cases of the new variant, four in Ottawa, and a newly found case in Quebec. All five cases were from people who returned from trips to the Southern Africa regions.
To try and protect the Canadians, the federal government has implemented new measures to those have traveled to regions of Southern Africa.
Until January 31, 2022, the Government of Canada is implementing enhanced border measures for all travelers who have been in the Southern Africa region — including South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Namibia— within the last 14 days before arriving in Canada.
Foreign nationals who have traveled to any of these countries within the previous 14 days will not be permitted entry into Canada.
Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and people with status under the Indian Act, regardless of their vaccination status or having had a previous history of testing positive for COVID-19, who have been in these countries in the previous 14 days will be subject to enhanced testing, screening, and quarantine measures.
On Tuesday, Ontario reported 687 new COVID-19 cases bringing the seven-day average for the number of infections reported in the province to 794.