Alberta identifies 1st case of Omicron COVID-19 variant in returning traveller

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Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said Tuesday that there is a confirmed case of the Omicron COVID-19 type of concern in the province.

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Dr. Dina Hinshaw said a man who returned from Nigeria and the Netherlands “about a week ago” tested positive for the Omicron variant while being asymptomatic.

Alberta Health told Granthshala News that the person had not been vaccinated.

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The person traveling alone has not left the quarantine since arrival, Hinshaw said.

Hinshaw said all household members have been contacted and measures are being taken to limit the risk of transmission.

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“Neither this person nor the people in their household have done anything wrong.”

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When a positive case was detected, full contact tracing and notification was done, all close contacts were offered PCR testing as well as the option of rapid at-home testing, Hinshaw said.

While it’s important to be cautious, Hinshaw said she doesn’t want “Alberton to be worried.

“We had anticipated the arrival of this edition in the province … we are well prepared for this event.”

Hinshaw said this is the only confirmed case of Omicron in Alberta at this time.

“Our goal is to delay the spread of Omicron while we learn more about it.”

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She said the updated testing and quarantine rules for international travelers arriving in Alberta announced on Monday are a cautious approach until more is known about this new version of the concern.

“We should not stigmatize countries where a new variant has been identified,” Hinshaw stressed.

Anyone arriving from a country outside Canada in the past 14 days who tests positive for COVID-19 is being screened for all variants and will undergo additional follow-up.

Alberta is focusing on a generic approach because there are many countries that do not have the access or ability to expand vaccine coverage, Hinshaw pointed out.

“Globally, as long as there are countries where the virus can be widely transmitted if it enters those countries, we are all at risk. Part of this risk, I think, is about vaccine equity around the world. Part of the risk is about some of those unknowns.

“Until we know more about the virus … I think it is appropriate to take a high level of caution,” Hinshaw said. “But I do believe, based on what we’ve seen before, that vaccines are still likely to provide some protection against serious consequences and I believe we have it in its early days.” There is very good infrastructure in place to detect and slow its spread.”

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He said other reasons for optimism include vaccines available to children, future expansion of booster eligibility and oral medications being developed to protect against dire consequences.

“There are so many reasons to be optimistic,” Hinshaw said.

“I think it’s important that we remain vigilant but we also don’t see it as a reset to ground zero.”

On Monday, Premier Jason Kenney outlined the province’s steps to prepare for the “likely” arrival of a new COVID-19 version of the concern, Omicron.

The Alberta government said it plans to test all COVID-19 cases that have not been identified as Delta cases for the Omicron version and that efforts will prioritize cases involving travelers.

Kenny said 156 travelers have arrived in Alberta over the past two weeks from countries of concern regarding the new version and all have arrived in an effort to quickly address potential new COVID-19 cases.

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The government said anyone returning to Alberta from an international destination who tests positive for COVID-19 will be subject to a more comprehensive case investigation and increased contract tracing efforts. PCR tests will be recommended for close contacts and household contacts.

NDP health critic David Shepherd said on Tuesday that he was pleased to hear that the Omicron version had only one confirmed case so far, with the timing of the case particularly concerning as it comes weeks ahead of the holiday season.

“Families are planning to travel and gather, businesses are planning to bring in seasonal employees and inventory, and this news unfortunately casts all of these plans into some doubt.”

On Monday, the NDP proposed two measures it says will help the province respond effectively to the type of concern.

“First of all, Alberta needs an independent science team,” Shepherd said. “Important decisions have to be made and they must be underpinned by a high level of public trust. And Jason Kenny doesn’t have that confidence.”

The opposition health critic called for the province to be more transparent in its response.

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“We need to look at modeling, we need to look at advice, we need to look at recommendations.”

Shepherd said the province also needed to create a risk index.

“This is simply a description of the conditions that will trigger change in public health measures. It is an important planning resource for families, schools and small businesses.”

Shepherd reiterated earlier calls for more steps to be taken to control the spread of UCP, including in-school vaccination clinics, thorough staff contact tracing for schools and daycare, as well as paid sick leave so that People can stay at home when they are sick.

“All Albertans I know are hoping that …

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