TORONTO — The Canadian government is taking swift action in an effort to minimize impact from the new variant of concern.
Earlier today the WHO named the new B.1.1.529 variant ‘omicron’.
In a briefing this afternoon, the federal government noted that currently there are no direct flights into Canada from any of the 7 countries now dealing with the omicron variant: South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini.
While there are no direct flights, the federal government is still looking to stave off any outbreaks of omicron variant here in Canada with the following measures, effective immediately:
- Foreign nationals who have travelled to any of the 7 countries in the past 14 days will be barred from entering Canada
- Travellers coming to Canada from any of the 7 countries via another transit destination must be tested at their last transit point, and quarantine upon arrival
- Anyone who has entered Canada from any of these 7 countries within the past 14 days must immediately begin to quarantine, and to be tested for COVID-19
- Global Affairs Canada will be issuing a travel advisory asking all Canadians not to travel to southern Africa
Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam noted that there are no known omicron variant cases in Canada at this time.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra was at today’s briefing. “The government continues to take unprecedented and decisive action” to contain further waves and outbreaks of COVID-19, he said.
Minister Alghabra said the measures announced today will stay in effect until at least Jan. 31, 2022.
Around the world, the UK announced that it was banning flights from southern African countries effective at noon today, and that anyone who had recently arrived from those countries would be asked to take a coronavirus test.
Germany said its flight ban could be enacted as soon as Friday night. Italy’s health ministry also announced measures to ban entry into Italy of anyone who has been in the seven southern African nations,
Earlier today Ontario Premier Doug Ford called for stronger border measures in light of the new COVID-19 variant.
Ford says he wanted the federal government to ban flights and passengers from “countries of concern” until it’s determined that vaccines protect against the variant.
Dr. Tam said that while little is known about the new omicron variant at this time, “each layer provides an additional layer of protection.”
Minister Alghabra was asked if the 7 countries were just a first phase. “We’ll always monitor and continue to monitor the data that we’re receiving from around the world … and we will take additional precautionary measures if necessary. We will constantly reevaluate and reassess that list of 7 countries,” he said.
With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press