Omicron in Ontario

Child getting vaccinated. Courtesy of

Canada bans flights

by Mitch Smitten

Within the past week the new COVID variant “Omicron” has entered Canada with its first case in Ottawa,Ontario. The halt of travel is being put into full effect as Premiere Doug Ford on Friday stated that all travel will be restricted to the countries of concern such as South Africa. This affects families looking to travel for the holidays along with potential international students, looking to come to Canada to begin a semester this coming winter. 

Ford also stated “Until we can be certain that the vaccines are effective against this new variant, I am calling on the government of Canada to follow other governments by immediately banning all flights and passengers from countries of concern.” Though the timeline may not match up either, Ford was adamant about stating that any who arrived from countries of concern who arrived before the implementation, they should be tested and quarantined. 

The Canadian government has come out expressing their opinions and potential ideas for the coming weeks as we learn more about the new variant. Though the travel restrictions were only put in place as of Friday, it’s an attempt to slow down the potential spread as we know very little about the new variant and its multiple mutations. For now, Canadians are being asked to remain socially distant and avoid interactions with people not inside your friend group and or household. For safety measures, the Government of Canada is implementing enhanced border measures for all international travellers who have been in the South Africa area where the variant initially started. As of right now, the next step is unsure but what we do know is that it’s being taken very seriously and that our government is doing everything they can to prevent a mass spread of the new Omicron variant. 

Ontario nears 90% with first shot


by Reuben Gasee

While lockdowns in the province of Ontario may feel like they’re a thing of the past, the COVID-19 pandemic is still present and very much ahead of us.    From today’s stats and records, the province of Ontario has recorded 788 new cases. Here is a breakdown of those cases based on vaccination statuses.

Unvaccinated 412
Partially vaccinated 27
Fully vaccinated 315
Status unknown 34

From today, in addition to those cases, three deaths were recorded due to the pandemic which has put the province's death toll due to COVID-19 at three short of ten thousand. Also, currently, there are 148 people who are in the intensive care unit.

With 788 new cases today, the seven-day average is starting to creep to 800 a day. The high seven-day average can partly be attributed to Sunday’s case counts where 964 new cases were recorded, the highest number in a day since May.

Just this past weekend, two cases of the new “Omicron” variant which originated in South Africa, have been detected in Canada, more specifically, the province of Ontario. The World Health Organization has said that the Omicron variant is a big concern and that it is believed to be more transmissible than any other variant although research has yet to be done.

Despite only two cases of the Omicron variant being recorded, there are concerns that other cases of the variant are circulating around which can be attributed to the fact that four new cases are being investigated for the new variant. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist has stated “By the time you discover this virus in one location, it really is in many, many locations. The fact that there (are) two cases here in Ontario probably means there may be even more cases elsewhere in Canada”.

courtesy London Health Sciences Centre

As of 10:30 a.m. yesterday, 22 950 908 vaccines have been administered to Ontario residents. 89.71% of the Ontario population has received at least their first shot while 86.32% of the population are fully vaccinated. While two doses are recommended to protect yourself against COVID-19, the province is looking into recommending its citizens to get a third dose to better protect themselves. Chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore has said he expects to make an announcement by the end of the week in regards to strategies to protect people from COVID-19.

Dr Kieran Moore on Ontario's response to Omicron

by Hana Yeung

Ontario is reviewing the possible acceleration of the province’s third dose vaccine strategy after confirming two positive cases of the Omicron (the new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.529).

“We will be reviewing options and providing them to the government in the next few days, and I would anticipate an announcement by the end of this week on an enhanced strategy to best protect Ontarians,” Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said today in Queen’s Park media studio.

He said Ontario is investigating four more possible cases of Omicron mostly barring flights from southern Africa, including two in the Hamilton area and two more in Ottawa. Two confirmed cases of Omicron were reported in Nigeria when they arrived in Canada.

375 people have returned to the province in the last two weeks from seven southern African countries under a federal travel ban, including South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini.

Ontario has extended eligibility for free COVID-19 PCR testing for individuals who returned from those locations between November 1 and December 6.

For the increasing risk of reinfection, we are still unclear how Omicron could impact Ontario and Canada. Moore said the symptoms can be or whether the vaccine is effective against it. “We know the vaccine is very effective. We know two doses prevent admission to hospital at a very protective rate,” He strongly recommended Ontarians to be vaccinated, as children ages five to eleven can start to get the COVID-19 shots in Ontario last week.

As of November 17, nearly 85 percent of youth aged 12 to 17 have received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 80 percent have received a second dose.

data from Ontario COVID website

“The virus has been present on the globe for probably many, many weeks and months. It has spread to multiple locations around the globe. As we are learning every minute of every hour. It may be more prudent to broaden the testing of all returning travelers to ensure that they will have a take-home PCR test to get that test done.” He said.

Moore said if Omicron is “less lethal,” then it will have a lesser impact on the health system. Health officials are calling on Ontarians to continue to limit social contact with the holiday season coming up. The travel bans still going on.

The World Health Organization warned the new variant Omicron is a “very high” global risk, and potential COVID-19 surges could have "severe consequences. We have more in-depth reporting for this.

The Omicron has already been found in a multitude of countries, including the Netherlands, Denmark, Britain, and Germany.

WHO warns of Omicron spread

by Ziyad Benhaddad

The World Health Organization believes the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is going to spread further and it poses a higher global risk. “Given mutations that may confer immune escape potential and possibly transmissibility advantage, the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high,” the WHO said on Monday.

No deaths have been linked yet to Omicron, although the organization is insisting on its 194 members to speed up the vaccination in high-priority groups. The variant was first reported on November 24th, since then the cases have been rising quickly. In addition, Omicron has spread now over 12 countries and Ontario reported yesterday its first two cases of the new variant.

Courtesy: CTV NEWS

Many countries have applied travel restrictions, while Japan and Israel have announced that they will close their borders to foreigners. President Biden addressed the travel ban that was imposed on South African countries, “We needed time to get people the opportunity to get the vaccination now before it moved around the world,”. Biden implied that the new variant “is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic”

As of now, experts say there’s no indication of how transmissible the variant is. The WHO said it will take a couple of weeks to understand how the variant will affect diagnostics and vaccines. Early results in South Africa suggest that the variants spread much more rapidly than previous strains.

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