First case of omicron COVID-19 variant confirmed in Alberta, Hinshaw says

Alberta’s first case of the omicron variant has been confirmed in a traveller who returned to the province from Nigeria and the Netherlands.

“I’m reporting we have now one confirmed case of the omicron variant in Alberta,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, told a news conference Tuesday.

“This case has been confirmed in a returning traveller from Nigeria and the Netherlands.

“The individual tested positive while asymptomatic and I can confirm this individual has not left quarantine since their arrival from international travel.”

Hinshaw said the individual and their household members have been notified.

All necessary measures are in place to prevent transmission, she said.

“I don’t want Albertans to be alarmed. As I mentioned [Monday], we anticipated the arrival of this variant in the province eventually based on what we’ve seen from previous strains of COVID-19.

“We were well-prepared for this eventuality.”

She said the individual, who had been travelling alone, returned to Alberta about one week ago and tested for COVID-19 on arrival.

Hinshaw said there is typically a time lag between an initial positive test and follow-up testing for variants.

The omicron variant — a strain that may be more infectious than previous versions of the coronavirus — has previously been reported in Ontario and Quebec.  

On Monday, Hinshaw told reporters that it’s only a matter of time before omicron is detected in the province.

She said Alberta was ramping up tracing and testing of COVID-19 cases identified in all returning international travellers in a bid to avoid the inevitable.

“It is very likely that omicron will eventually reach our province,” Hinshaw said Monday. “Our goal now is to delay the spread of omicron until we learn more about it.”

The World Health Organization declared omicron a variant of concern last week.

The federal government has already banned travellers from a number of southern African countries in a bid to contain the spread. 

Alberta is monitoring 156 travellers who have returned from these banned countries in the last two weeks. The travellers were contacted over the weekend, advised of testing and isolation rules and offered testing kits. 

The number of active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Alberta has been declining. As of Monday, there are 4,850 active cases. There are 432 people with COVID-19 in hospital, including 77 in intensive care.

A total of 3,242 Albertans have died since the pandemic began.

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