Two more Omicron variant cases confirmed in Ottawa
OTTAWA -- Ottawa's medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches, has confirmed two more cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in the city, bringing the number of confirmed cases to four.
Ontario's chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said Monday morning that public health officials were awaiting full genomic sequencing results from two people in Ottawa to determine whether they contracted the new variant of the virus. Dr. Etches confirmed the two new infections at the Board of Health meeting Monday evening.
"We are now aware of two other returned travellers who have tested positive for the Omicron variant," Etches said. "Ottawa Public Health is conducting the case and contact management and the individuals, all four, are now self-isolating."
The first two Omicron variant cases were discovered in Ottawa over the weekend. They are Canada’s first two confirmed cases of the new variant.
The two cases were in people who returned from Nigeria. They flew through Montreal, Moore said, which is where their initial tests were conducted. Etches told reporters that the other two individuals who tested positive for the Omicron variant had also been to Nigeria. All four people travelled independently and they are not related.
There are no other possible cases of the variant under investigation in Ottawa at this time, Etches added, and there is no evidence of any local transmission.
Moore says Ontario is now conducting genomic sequencing on all positive COVID-19 tests to screen for the variant.
“I would not be surprised if we find more in Ontario, because we have a very robust surveillance system,” Moore said. “I want to reassure Ontarians that we are prepared and ready to respond to this or any other new variant,” Moore said, adding that he has “great confidence” in Ottawa Public Health’s case and contact management capacity.
Etches said that sequencing showed nearly all positive cases in the city lately had been the Delta variant before the Omicron cases were identified.
"They've looked for that screening indicator that something isn't Delta and they haven't seen that up until November 26," she said. "Now, it's a matter of active case finding. As people come into the country, as people test positive, this is the process. It's actively looking for it, but it doesn't look like there was any detection of it that could have been missed."
Moore also mentioned two possible cases in the Hamilton area on Monday.
But he added that although the news of the variant feels concerning, people should remain calm and follow the science, including the public health measures in place. Anyone who is not vaccinated should get the vaccine as soon as possible, he said.
He also suggested there could be an announcement by the end of this week about accelerating third-dose booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Etches had a similar message Monday.
"This is not a new virus and the public health measures that we practise will help reduce the spread of the Omicron variant," she said.
Etches said that, at this time, she does not believe there is a need for enhanced public health measures in Ottawa.
OPH monitoring other travellers
Dr. Etches also said Monday evening that Ottawa Public Health is aware of 15 travellers who have returned from Africa in recent days. OPH is watching for travellers from Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, or Namibia. She did not identify which specific countries each of the 15 people had been to, though they are from the nations identified by the federal government as being of concern for possibly encoutering the Omicron variant. Etches said all of them are following the federal guidance on returning to Canada.
Federal guidelines require Canadian citizens who return to Canada, regardless of their vaccination status or having had a previous history of testing positive for COVID-19, be tested immediately upon arrival. All travellers will also be required to complete a test on day eight after arrival and quarantine for 14 days.
Etches says that all members of the households of any people who return from southern Africa must immediately self-isolate, seek testing regardless of symptoms, and isolate from other family members. People who cannot isolate from pther members of their household are offered the option of staying in a voluntary isolation centre. It's unclear how many other people, in addition to the travellers, must also self-isolate.