TOP News

Canada: Omicron variant: Canada expands travel ban, seeks booster guidance

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

  Ontario finds Canada’s first cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant. Here’s what we know South African scientists first identified the heavily mutated variant earlier this week after an exponential surge in cases. Canada has detected its first two cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

A WestJet Airlines Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner jet (C-GUDH) lands at sunset, Vancouver International Airport, Richmond, B.C. on Oct. 8. © Bayne Stanley/The Canadian Press A WestJet Airlines Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner jet (C-GUDH) lands at sunset, Vancouver International Airport, Richmond, B.C. on Oct. 8.

Canada is restricting travel from three more African countries and seeking guidance on COVID-19 boosters amid the emergence of the Omicron variant.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said foreign nationals from Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt who have been to those countries over the past two weeks will not be able to enter Canada. This adds to the seven other African countries barred by Canada on Friday: South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.

Ottawa working to get women’s field hockey team home from South Africa after Omicron travel ban

  Ottawa working to get women’s field hockey team home from South Africa after Omicron travel ban The Canadian junior women's field hockey team has been stranded in South Africa due to new travel restrictions targeting the Omicron variant.Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge called the team on Saturday to offer reassurance no stone is being left unturned, says Jenn Beagan, coach of the Field Hockey Canada junior women's national team.

Canadians and permanent residents, as well as all those who have the right to return to Canada, who have transited through these countries over the past two weeks, will have to quarantine, be tested at the airport, and await their test results before exiting quarantine, Duclos said.

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

In addition to the travel ban, Canadians and permanent residents -- even those who are fully vaccinated -- must be tested before entering Canada after being to any of the 10 countries listed, said Transport Minister Omar Alghbara.

"Canadians will need to stop and obtain valid results in a third country before entering Canada," Alghbara said.

The testing requirement will also be broadened, ministers said, and will now include anyone coming into Canada from a foreign country aside from the United States. Those travellers will need to be tested on arrival at the airport, isolate and wait, until their test result is known before exiting their isolation period, Duclos said.

COVID live updates: Opposition blasts Legault for mixed messages on Christmas gatherings

  COVID live updates: Opposition blasts Legault for mixed messages on Christmas gatherings Updated throughout the day on Tuesday, Nov. 30. Questions/comments: [email protected] Top updates Live: Federal officials provide update on Canada’s response to Omicron variant Video: Under fire from opposition, Legault says his government’s cooperating with coroner’s CHSLD inquiry BioNTech CEO says vaccine likely to protect against severe COVID from Omicron FAQ: What we know so far about the Omicron variant ‘We will listen to public health’ on Christmas gatherings, Legault says People 60+ should avoid international travel due to Omicron threat, WHO says PQ, Liberals accuse Legault government of obstructing CHSLD inquiry Opposition blasts Legault for mixed message

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

The on-arrival test, which will be paid-for by the federal government, is in addition to the pre-departure test before arriving in Canada, said Duclos.

The border measures will enable Canada more time to better understand the new variant in terms of its transmissibility, severity of illness and impact on vaccine efficiency, said Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief public health officer.

"We don’t have those answers yet, but scientists around the world are working closely to find those answers," he said.

"So right now these measures are just to slow down the propagation of the virus."

Travel restrictions are not the only thing top of mind for Canadian officials now that Omicron cases are cropping up across the country. The Canadian government is also asking National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to quickly provide the latest directives on the use of boosters in the context of the new Omicron variant.

How Canada changed its position on pandemic travel bans

  How Canada changed its position on pandemic travel bans Countries are acting swiftly to isolate regions where COVID-19 variants of concern have emerged. Many scientists are not convinced that travel bans actually work. Some say bans encourage countries to downplay outbreaks or hide new variants. Others say bans can buy time.He made the remarks — which he tweeted out to the world — on board a government jet about to depart for a tour of Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal.

"This call that we’re making is to ask NACI to provide quick guidance on whether we should revise national standards, national attitudes and actions on the use of boosters across Canada in the context of the new Omicron variant," Duclos said.

As of Tuesday, Canada had confirmed seven cases of the Omicron variant: four in Ontario and one each in Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.

Omicron is the fifth and latest variant of concern designated by the World Health Organization (WHO)

Read more: Moderna CEO says COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective against Omicron variant

This variant is more heavily mutated than the other variants of concern, containing more than 30 mutations, which scientists fear might help it spread easily or even evade antibodies from prior infection or vaccination.

The WHO has warned that the Omicron COVID-19 poses a "very high" risk of infection surges that could have “severe consequences” in some places, though further research was needed to assess its potential impact.

-- with files from Rachael D'Amore

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.

See also