The omicron variant that was first detected by South African researchers has turned up in two people from Ottawa who returned from a trip to Nigeria.
In a joint statement on Sunday, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said Ottawa Public Health was conducting case and contact management, and the two patients are in isolation.
“Ontario is prepared and ready to respond to this new variant,” the statement read.
Canada and many other countries recently announced travel restrictions for southern African countries, but Nigeria is not on the list disclosed by Ottawa.
World Health Organization (WHO) officials in South Africa reported the variant on Nov. 24.
The WHO has linked omicron to a rapid rise of case in South Africa. The health agency has labelled the strain as a variant of concern.
Preliminary investigation by the WHO shows there appears to be an increased risk of reinfection with omicron compared to other variants. There are many questions scientists are trying to find answers to including whether the virus is more dangerous to the health of those who are infected by it, or whether the variant is more transmissible than other COVID variants.
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in a statement that he has spoken with his provincial counterpart about Canada’s first two confirmed cases of omicron.
“This development demonstrates that our monitoring system is working,” he said.
“As the monitoring and testing continues with provinces and territories, it is expected that other cases of this variant will be found in Canada.”
The virus has also been detected in Australia, Denmark, Israel, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.
South Africa’s president on Sunday said the travel bans were unjust.