Statement on the Omicron variant of concern found in Ontario
November 28, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada
The Government of Canada has a monitoring program in place with the provinces and territories to identify new COVID-19 variants in Canada, such as the Omicron variant of concern.
Genomic sequencing is an integral part of Canada’s ongoing response to COVID-19 to track natural evolution of the virus, including its variants. Provinces and territories, as well as the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) National Microbiology Laboratory, monitor Canadian cases of COVID-19 through ongoing analysis of genomic databases in Canada. This monitoring work, including border surveillance, has confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant of concern in Ontario.
As the monitoring continues, it is expected that other cases of this variant will be found in Canada and other countries. Canadians are reminded that vaccination, in combination with public health and individual protective measures, is working to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and its variants in our communities.
To reduce the risk of importation of the virus and any of its variants, Canada has had travel restrictions and border measures in place since March 2020. These rigorous quarantine and testing measures are among some of the strongest in the world.
On November 26, in response to concerns about the Omicron variant of concern, the Government of Canada swiftly implemented enhanced border measures for all travellers 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, until January 31, 2022.
Early data suggest that the Omicron variant may be more transmissible but evidence is limited at this time. There is ongoing international data gathering to determine the impact of this variant on severity of illness and on vaccine effectiveness. These temporary border measures are being implemented while the Canadian and global medical, public health and research communities actively evaluate this variant – as has been done with previous variants – to understand the potential implications in terms of transmission, clinical presentation and vaccine efficacy.
The Government of Canada advises Canadians to avoid travelling to countries in the Southern African region and will continue to monitor the situation to inform current or future actions. Restrictions are changing quickly and may be imposed by countries with little warning, disrupting travel plans. Should individuals choose to travel outside Canada, they may be forced to remain outside of Canada longer than expected.
Canada continues to maintain pre-entry molecular testing for vaccinated and unvaccinated international travellers arriving from any country to reduce the risk of importation of COVID-19 including variants.
The Government of Canada will continue to assess the evolving situation and adjust border measures as required. Canadians are reminded that vaccination, in combination with public health and individual measures, is just as important as ever to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.
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