TORONTO — One thing on everyone’s minds is the new Omicron variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus. After the World Health Organization marked it as “a variant of concern” on November 26th, people everywhere have asked questions about the efficacy of the vaccine in relation to Omicron, how it will affect them, and more. Let’s dive into what we know as of November 30th.
Four cases of Omicron have been found in Canada thus far, all in Ottawa. The four people, in groups of two, had all recently returned from Nigeria through Montreal. They’ve been quarantined, and officials say there’s currently no need to change Ottawa’s public health restrictions. Just this evening, one case was reported in Alberta.
375 other people have returned to Ontario from South African countries that have been subject to the federal travel ban. Those people are currently being reached out to by local health units in order to perform COVID tests and, if necessary, quarantine.
The Omicron variant reportedly shows an increased risk of infection, but scientists are currently unsure as to the effectiveness of our current vaccines against the new variant.
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health says, “If it’s a less lethal virus, less impact on the hospital sector, and our vaccines can continue to work against it, we will continue our current strategy and not have to have any further public health restrictions.” Moore went on to say that he doesn’t currently foresee any steps backwards in Ontario’s reopening plan.
There’s still not enough information to make many definitive claims involving the Omicron variant and the impact it will have on Canada’s healthcare system, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is suggesting that we may need to do more to combat the new variant.
“There may be more we need to do and we’ll be looking at it very carefully,” Trudeau said on the way to a cabinet meeting. U.S. President Joe Biden also said Omicron is “not a cause for panic,” while speaking at the White House yesterday. Biden also stated that Dr. Anthony Fauci, his chief medical adviser, believes that the vaccine will still work on this variant at this point in time, though further research could clarify the situation.
South Africa, where the variant was first found, is facing travel bans from many countries, including the U.S.A. and Canada. Canadian residents of South African heritage are feeling devastated for being unable to visit family, like George Qua-Enoo, who is in South Africa while his family lives in Hamilton.
“Maybe by February, March I can come back to Canada to visit people, but who knows?” he said over Zoom.
Some Canadians, like Richard Maisel, are even stuck in South Africa. With each international airline primarily accepting only citizens of the airlines’ respective countries, it can be a rather confusing and stressful situation for people who just want to come home. We’ll keep you updated as new information on Omicron emerges.