PM Justin Trudeau to speak to Canada’s premiers about Omicron variant

Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was expected to speak by phone to the premiers of the country’s 10 provinces on Tuesday to discuss the rapidly spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus, his office said.

The call was set to take place at 6 pm ET (2300 GMT), according to a provincial source, who requested anonymity.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters that Ottawa would act quickly and do what was necessary but gave no details.

Separately, the government leader in the House of Commons, Mark Holland, said Liberals would reduce their numbers in parliament starting on Wednesday because of the Omicron variant. He said he had urged the opposition parties to do the same.

The House is sitting until Friday and then will break until Jan 31.

Canada has already announced a ban on people who recently traveled to 10 countries in Africa.

Omicron, which health officials say is more contagious than the currently dominant Delta variant, has started spreading locally within communities in Canada since being first detected in November.

Ontario, the most populous of the 10 provinces, has paused plans to remove pandemic-related curbs and asked staff to continue working from home. It announced measures on Tuesday to protect those living in long-term care and retirement homes.

“Data suggests that each Omicron case is infecting four to eight times more individuals than the Delta variant, and it is rapidly becoming the dominant strain in Ontario,” Chief Medical Officer Kieran Moore told a briefing.

Neighboring Quebec is recruiting more people to give vaccinations as it ramps up distribution of booster shots, health minister Christian Dube told reporters.

Sun Life Financial (SLF.TO) paused its office re-opening plan for more employees until the end of January due to worries about Omicron, the Toronto-based insurer said on Tuesday. That followed a similar move by Canada’s third-largest lender, Bank of Nova Scotia, on Monday.

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