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Canada: Ontario finds Canada’s first cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant. Here’s what we know

13 omicron cases in Portuguese soccer team

  13 omicron cases in Portuguese soccer team TOKYO (AP) — Portuguese health authorities said Monday they have identified 13 cases of omicron, the new coronavirus variant believed to be more contagious, among team members of a professional soccer club. The Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute said Monday that one of those who tested positive at the Lisbon-based Belenenses soccer club had recently traveled to South Africa, where the omicron variant was first identified. The others, however, had not traveled to South Africa, indicating that this may be one of the very first cases of local transmission of the virus outside of southern Africa.

Single Coronavirus cell with DNA strands and white blood cells © Graphic Single Coronavirus cell with DNA strands and white blood cells

Canada has detected its first two cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

A statement from Ontario's Ministry of Health confirmed that cases of the variant, recently declared as the novel coronavirus' fifth variant of concern by the WHO, have been identified in Ontario.

“Today, the province of Ontario has confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria. Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management and the patients are in isolation," read the statement.

Omicron: How does it compare with other COVID-19 variants of concern?

  Omicron: How does it compare with other COVID-19 variants of concern? The Omicron variant, first detected by South Africa, has become the latest and fifth variant of concern designated by the WHO since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. A variant of concern has the potential for increased transmissibility, severity of illness or decreased effectiveness of vaccines, treatments and public health measures, according to WHO. Cases of Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and now the Omicron variant have been detected in Canada. Here is what we know so far about the Omicron variant and how it compares with the other variant of concern. Omicron The B.1.1.

"In addition to the measures recently announced, we continue to urge the federal government to take the necessary steps to mandate point-of-arrival testing for all travellers irrespective of where they’re coming from to further protect against the spread of this new variant."

Read more: Netherlands, Australia confirm cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant

South African scientists first identified the heavily mutated variant earlier this week after an exponential surge in cases, prompting a host of nations — including Canada — to impose new travel restrictions on a wide swathe of southern African countries.

Public health experts and officials were alarmed by the variant's high number of mutations — with preliminary data showing at first an increased potential for transmissibility, a reduction in vaccine effectiveness and increased reinfection.

What we know so far about the Omicron variant, which has been found in Canada

  What we know so far about the Omicron variant, which has been found in Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that there "may be more" Canada needs to do in order to combat the Omicron COVID-19 variant. He said while strong border measures are in place, there are other things that can be done including getting more vaccines into the country, but he would not say if Canada would ban flights from more countries.

Other experts were quick to point out South Africa's low rates of vaccination, which currently sit at under 30 per cent of the total population, as well as a lack of evidence suggesting the variant is deadlier than the current dominant strains of the virus.

Video: COVID-19: South African president “deeply disappointed” by travel restrictions due to Omicron variant

Canadian public health officials previously said that getting vaccinated was still the best way of preventing the most severe outcomes from contracting COVID-19, and that there was no definitive evidence yet of its ability to completely circumvent the protection offered by the inoculations.

A handful of vaccine makers have recently announced that they were also developing or examining ways to enhance or create new versions of their shots to combat Omicron.

The most recent was that of Moderna, whose chief medical officer Dr. Paul Burton told BBC that a new vaccine could be produced by "early 2022" if it was necessary.

Omicron and travel: What new restrictions mean for refunds and insurance

  Omicron and travel: What new restrictions mean for refunds and insurance If the new Omicron COVID-19 variant scuttles your plans this holiday season, will you get your money back? When the pandemic began some carriers adopted flexible booking options. If you were planning to travel to another country or province this holiday season, news about the Omicron COVID-19 variant is probably driving your anxiety levels higher.

Read more: Will COVID-19 booster shots protect against the Omicron variant? Experts undecided

“The remarkable thing about the mRNA vaccines, Moderna platform, is we can move very fast,” he said, noting that the company started work on an Omicron vaccine on Thursday.

Canada's vaccination rates also stand among the highest in the world, with nearly 80 per cent of the country's eligible population already vaccinated against COVID-19.

Video: COVID-19: Vaccine against Omicron variant could be ready by early 2022, Moderna says

Public health experts told Global News earlier on Friday shortly before Canada's announcement of new travel restrictions that they would not be surprised if the variant was "already here" and spreading within Canada's borders.

On Sunday, the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia became the latest countries alongside Canada to discover the new variant among their cases.

The variant has already been found in Belgium, Botswana, Israel, Hong Kong, the U.K., Germany and Italy.

More to come...

Why exempt U.S. from new travel restrictions? Feds point to low Omicron transmission .
According to the new travel rules, anyone coming into Canada from a country other than the U.S. will have to be tested for COVID on arrival, then isolate and await their results. "Those measures are temporary for us to learn more about this variant, to learn more about its severity, and we will continually adjust based on the advice and the information that we get," Alghabra said, speaking during an interview with The West Block host Mercedes Stephenson. "There are very little reports of community transmission (of Omicron) in the United States. If that changes, we will change our measures.

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