vaccinations and omicron

Ontario confirms first two cases of Omicron variant, the first found in North America

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.

At a press conference on Monday, Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, noted that the province is investigating other cases, and he wouldn’t be surprised if they found more in Ontario, due to the province’s “very robust surveillance system.”

He added that the two individuals in Ontario who tested positive for Omicron are in isolation and that the Public Health Agency of Canada and Ottawa Public Health are monitoring the situation.

Moore said that the province is pushing for enhanced testing for returning travelers.

“We’re pushing that from a government of Ontario perspective and have the testing capacity in Ontario if the federal government mandates enhanced testing.”

Moore confirmed that Ontario has the infrastructure in place to manage outbreaks and a high-volume capacity for testing, with 230 assessment centres and community labs and over 500 pharmacies offering testing to those who need it.

Premier Doug Ford wasn’t present at the press conference, but he previously noted that he is “extremely concerned about the risks” the variant poses.

On Friday, the federal government announced that they were banning entry for foreign nationals that have travelled to Southern Africa in the last 14 days, and will make testing mandatory on all Canadians entering into Canada who have travelled to Southern Africa in the last 14 days.

According to a provincial press statement, the provincial government is enhancing its COVID-19 testing strategy by expanding the number of testing locations and making it more convenient to access publicly funded testing for those who need it as we head into the colder months and more people gather indoors.

The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa.

South Africa reported rising rates of hospitalization due to COVID-19 there, although it is not clear if it was specifically due to the Omicron variant. It is not fully clear whether the variant is more transmissible or causes more severe illness, but on Friday, the World Health Organization designated it as a “variant of concern”.

Meanwhile, Ontario reported 788 new COVID-19 cases and three more deaths on Monday. Christine Elliott, Ontario’s Minister of Health, confirmed that individuals who are not fully vaccinated represent 23.6% of Ontario’s total population and amount to 439 of Ontario’s 788 new reported cases; 34 cases are in individuals with unknown vaccination status.

In Ontario, as of Monday morning, 22,928,466 doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Ontario. vaccine doses have been administered. Elliot noted that 89.7% of Ontarians 12+ have one dose and 86.3% have two doses.

There are 148 patients in ICU due to COVID-related critical illness; 131 patients are currently in ICU, testing positive for COVID, and 89 patients are in ICU on a ventilator due to COVID-related critical illness.

Click here for more COVID-19 Ontario news and here for where you could get rapid COVID-19 tests in Toronto (including a new drive-thru option).

Article exclusive to Streets Of Toronto