Infections from the new variant of Covid on Friday crossed double digits in Canada, which includes cases reported in the country’s largest city Toronto, public health officials said.Canada’s chief public health officer Dr Theresa Tam said the country had so far detected 11 infections of the new variant dubbed Omicron, all involving people who had recently travelled abroad, and voiced concerns over its spread.“The emergence and spread of the Omicron variant of concern, including 11 recent detections in travellers coming into Canada and/or their close contacts, is yet another reminder of how quickly things can shift in this pandemic, unless we continue to reduce the spread and impact of the virus with vaccination and other layers of protection,” said Tam.
Hours after her statement, Reuters reported that the number of Omicron cases had gone up to 15, with at least once case in the city of York. The report said that a child under 12, who had recently travelled to South Africa, had been diagnosed with Omicron.
Of the other cases reported in the country, three were detected in Toronto and, of these, two individuals recently returned from travel from Nigeria, while another recently returned from Switzerland.“These are the first cases of the Omicron variant of concern which have been confirmed by whole genome sequencing, reported in Toronto,” a statement from Toronto Public Health said.
Tam, meanwhile, stressed the need for “heightened vigilance” now and during the winter, even as the variant circulates and its “significance and impact” is still being assessed.
Canada has barred foreign nationals travelling from ten African nations from entering the country.
It has also announced an accelerated roll-out of booster doses of the Covid vaccines for all adults above 18 who have received their initial two doses. The third jab is expected to be widely available later this month and into the next year.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization on Friday said that it had “reviewed the latest data that suggest protection against infection decreases over time since completion of a primary Covid-19 vaccine series”.While protection against severe illness remained generally high, it could decrease over time for some people, such as older adults. “Booster doses of Covid-19 mRNA vaccines can increase the immune response and are expected to offer enhanced protection against infection and severe disease and may help reduce spread of infection,” it said.
It “strongly recommended” administering boosters early to those above 50, along with other more vulnerable groups like frontline healthcare workers.