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Canada reports North America’s first cases of Omicron variant

Canada imposes entry restrictions to prevent further spread of the virus.

Omicron | Shutterstock

November 29, 2021 4:51pm

Updated: November 29, 2021 7:36pm

At least two cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant were reported in Canada on Sunday, making them the first time the variant has spread to North America.

The cases were found in two people in Ottawa, Ontario who had traveled to Nigeria, according to a statement from Ontario health officials.

“As the monitoring continues, it is expected that other cases of this variant will be found in Canada and other countries,” said a statement by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“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,” said health officials.

Since being discovered in South Africa, the Omicron variant has spread to other African countries and to Germany, the U.K., Belgium, Hong Kong, Australia and Israel.

Despite not knowing much about the Omicron variant, health officials say we should be concerned. Omicron is thought to be more transmissible, more likely to cause severe disease, and could make vaccines ineffective.

However, according to South African Dr. Angelique Coetzee, who was one of the first to recognize the new variant, symptoms of Omicron are "extremely mild." 

On Friday, Canada restricted travel from South Africa and imposed stricter entry protocols for those who have been in the region the previous 14 days. However, Nigeria was not on their list.

On Monday, the U.S. implemented travel restrictions for travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

No cases of the omicron variant have been detected in the U.S. However, it is only a matter of time before it reaches the U.S., according to infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“The best defense against the Omicron variant is stopping it at our border. 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 travelers irrespective of where they’re coming from to further protect against the spread of this new variant,” said Canada’s Public Health Agency.