The first two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have been detected in Ottawa, health officials confirmed Sunday.
Both cases were reported in people who had recently travelled from Nigeria, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said in a statement.
Elliott said Ottawa Public Health is conducting “case and contact management” and patients are self-isolating.
The ban applies to foreign nationals who transited through a list of seven countries in the last 14 days, including South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia and eSwatini — but not Nigeria.
“The best defence against the Omicron variant is stopping it at our border,” Ontario health officials said.
“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 travellers irrespective of where they’re coming from to further protect against the spread of this new variant.”
The federal health minister said Ottawa is continuing to assess the situation, but said Sunday’s news should not be cause for alarm.
“This development demonstrates that our monitoring system is working,” Jean-Yves Duclos said in a statement.
“I know that this new variant may seem concerning, but I want to remind Canadians 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.”
On Friday, health officials in B.C. said there was no evidence the variant has been introduced into the province.
“We do not yet know the impact this new VOC will have on transmission or of severity of illness, but taking this immediate precautionary action is prudent. We will continue to closely monitor developments around the world,” said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix.
Meanwhile, five Vancouver Island field hockey players who were set to represent Canada next month on the world stage in South Africa are currently stranded there after the detection of the new variant.
“Flights are very, very hard to come by right now,” said Canada team manager Nancy Mollenhauer.
Government officials reached out to the team to provide support, but have yet to indicate a timeline of when the team will be able to return home.
-With files from The Canadian Press