At least four provinces across Canada have now reported cases of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.
Very little is known about Omicron, the variant first reported by officials in South Africa and recently discovered in Canada, and it’s unclear where it first originated. Omicron has a large number of mutations and the World Health Organization (WHO) believes it is more transmissible and has already spread widely.
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said that while the province doesn’t expect a 100 per cent loss in the efficacy of vaccines against the new variant, the 30 mutations in Omicron’s spike protein is concerning. Spike proteins are the main antigen being used to develop immunity in all vaccine products.
The new variant is already in a slew of countries, including the U.S., Portugal, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, Israel, South Africa, Botswana, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.
The discovery of Omicron quickly led to global travel bans as countries race to slow the spread of the new COVID variant. Hong Kong has banned non-resident travellers from “high-risk” countries like Canada where the variant has been detected.
These are the Canadian provinces that have reported cases of Omicron:
The province first reported a case on Nov. 30, when a traveller returning from Nigeria and the Netherlands tested positive for the new Omicron variant. Alberta’s top doctor said the person was asymptomatic and in quarantine.
The province’s public health unit data now shows Alberta’s Omicron case count has risen to three cases.
British Columbia (1)
B.C. has reported that a person who recently returned to B.C. from Nigeria has the province’s first case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
The province says the affected person is from the Fraser area and that 204 people are in quarantine and being tested after having recently returned from countries in the Southern Africa region.
Canada’s first cases of Omicron were discovered in Ottawa on Nov. 28. Two additional cases were later reported by Ottawa Public Health. Ontario is also investigating two suspected COVID-19 cases in Hamilton for the new variant.
The new variant has already shown up in the GTA, with Durham and Halton public health units each reporting a case.
The Durham case has been linked to an employee who also works at the Toronto East Detention Centre. As a result, the detention facility has declared an outbreak and are closely monitoring four inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Toronto Public Health is also notifying people who recently visited a local cafe about a potential exposure to a suspected case of the Omicron variant. An employee has tested positive for COVID-19 and had recently travelled to South Africa.
Quebec has confirmed one case of the Omicron variant. Public health officials say the affected person is from Montreal and was double vaccinated and asymptomatic.
The province announced the Omicron discovery just as Quebec is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases. The province reported 1,355 new cases Friday, the highest since mid-April.