Two cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant confirmed in Ottawa

OTTAWA — Two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Ottawa, the first cases of the variant in Canada.

In a statement Sunday afternoon, the Ontario government says two people who recently travelled from Nigeria tested positive for the variant.

The two patients are in isolation, and Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management.

Ottawa Public Health has released no other information about the two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa.

In a statement Sunday afternoon, Health Minister Christine Elliott and chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore confirmed the two cases.

“Ontario is prepared and ready to respond to this new variant,” said the statement.

“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. The Ontario COVID-19 Genomic Network is continuing to actively monitor for all potential variants circulating in the province, including the Omicron variant.”

The World Health Organization designated B.1.1.529 a variant of concern last week, and named it “Omicron.” The WHO said the variant was first reported by South Africa on Nov. 24, and the first confirmed case came from a specimen collected on Nov. 9.

On Friday, the federal government banned foreign nationals who had travelled to seven countries in southern Africa over the past 14 days from entering Canada. The countries include South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have been in the countries in the previous 14 days will be subject to enhanced testing, screening, and quarantine measures. All travellers will be required to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

Federal Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra says the federal government is prepared to strengthen measures to deal with the Omicron variant.

“Our government’s priority will always be the health and safety of Canadians. We have some of the most robust border measures in the world and we announced further measures regarding the new variant Omicron,” said Alghabra on Twitter.

In a statement on Twitter, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the National Microbiology Laboratory is working closely with the provinces and territories to monitor for cases.

“Canada has a robust monitoring program in place to detect genetic changes in the #SarsCoV2 virus that causes #COVID19 and/or to identify any new variants of the virus in Canada, such as the Omicron variant of concern,” said Tam.

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