The Omicron version has arrived in Canada, just days after Ottawa and other governments banned the entry of foreign nationals from several countries in southern Africa, with two cases identified in Ontario, where it apparently first emerged. .
Two cases are in Ottawa and linked to recent travel from Nigeria, according to a statement on Sunday by Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and the province’s chief medical officer of health, Kieran Moore. Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management, and patients are in isolation, the statement said.
Canada’s Public Health Agency said genomic surveillance as well as border surveillance identified cases. The agency said early data suggests the omicron variant may be more transmissible than earlier iterations of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The World Health Organization has designated it a variant of concern, as it contains dozens of mutations that scientists worry could allow vaccines to be avoided, although evidence is limited at this time.
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos will meet with his G7 counterparts on Monday to discuss the new version, his office said.
WHO says it is not yet clear whether the omicron variant is more transmitted or causes more severe disease
What we know so far about the new COVID-19 variant identified in South Africa
Travel restrictions have left some Canadians stranded overseas, including members of Canada’s junior women’s field hockey team, in South Africa to play in the World Cup tournament.
Team members eager to represent Team Canada at the Women’s FIH Hockey Junior World Cup spent nearly two days traveling from Victoria to Potchefstroom, South Africa. As of Sunday, the tournament was called off and domestic flights were cancelled. Athletes aged 18 to 21 all grappled with shock and despair – and worried about what would happen next.
“It’s obviously quite scary, knowing there are no flights coming in and out of South Africa at this time,” said 21-year-old Stephanie Sajko from Victoria.
He said the players received a call from Sports Minister Pascal Saint-Onge on Saturday.
“She can’t guarantee or promise anything, but she was very helpful in saying that she is there for us,” she said. “She wants us to know that they are doing everything they can to help us.”
Nora Struchtrup, 19, said the team would need permission to land from other countries and then rejoin Canada as there are no direct flights.
A statement from Global Affairs Canada said it is aware of Canadians who have been affected by the new travel measures, though declined to provide specifics due to confidentiality.
Field Hockey Canada CEO Susan Ahrens said the organization is in constant contact with people on the ground in South Africa and with its system partners in Canada to coordinate a quick and safe repatriation for the team.
“It is speculation to put a timeline,” she said. “We expect it to be a week for things to settle down. But, again, these timelines are not within our control, and we need to wait for our government partners for information in the next 24 hours.” .
He said the team has 25 members including athletes, coaches and staff.
Ms Struchtrup, who hails from Victoria, said several of her teammates learned of the cancellation of the tournament, which was scheduled for December 5-16.
“We all put a ton of work into it. We’re all really looking forward to it. We wanted to do it for each other. We wanted to do it for our families,” she said.
But “we never doubted it was the right decision.”
The Omicron variant was reported last week in several places in Africa, where it has been linked to a huge increase in the number of infections. It has also been identified in travelers from Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel.
Canadian officials said it expected other cases to be found in Canada, but that vaccines and public-health measures continue to work to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Ms Strachtrupp said she and her teammates are doing well in their training camp at North-West University and feel safe because they have a very small bubble. He added that the team is still practicing and the local hosts are taking good care of it.
“They threw us a little something like traditional South African barbecue last night, to help lift our spirits,” she said.
“We’re really in a best-case scenario in a worst-case scenario.”
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