Ontario testing two for Omicron after confirming four cases

The province reported 788 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday

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Ontario is testing two people from Hamilton to determine if they are infected with the Omicron variant, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore says.

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The potential two new cases are in addition to four individuals from Ottawa who have confirmed cases of the Omicron variant, recent arrivals from Nigeria via Montreal who are now in isolation

Public health officials are following up with a total of 375 who individuals who arrived in the province from “risk” countries as a precaution, he said.

“I would not be surprised if we find more (cases) in Ontario,” Moore said Monday.

Provincially funded PCR testing is being offered to anyone in Ontario who has returned from or travelled in South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia or Zimbabwe since Nov. 1.

Contacts and household members of individuals who have travelled are also eligible for free testing even if they have no symptoms, he said.

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Provincial officials were in discussions over the weekend with their federal counterparts regarding the testing of all arrivals into the country, including the strategy for short-term travellers.

“We’ll certainly have to monitor the situation in the United States,” Moore said. “It’s a federal responsibility but we’re at the table voicing any concern by the Ontario government to ensure that we’re listened to … This is a rapidly changing environment, lots of questions yet about this new strain that we have to have answers for.”

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The province expects to get more information in the next few weeks on the variant, particularly if it makes people sicker or is resistant to current vaccines, he said.

However, Ontarians should remain calm and follow the public health measures of social distancing, masking and handwashing, he added.

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Moore said vaccination remains critical — the province has now provided a first dose to 6.4% of children age five to 11 — and new vaccine and treatment options are being explored for individuals who remain hesitant to get the shots.

Ontario reported 788 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and two additional deaths.

  1. Students apply finishing touches to paintings made to create an awareness against the new coronavirus Omicron variant, in Mumbai, India, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021.

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  2. This photo taken Monday, Nov. 29, 2021 in Badhoevedorp near Schiphol airport, shows an an ambulance parked in front of a hotel where Dutch authorities have isolated 61 passengers who tested positive after arriving on two flights from South Africa.

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  3. Belenenses' goalkeeper Joao Monteiro sits on the pitch at the end of the the Portuguese league match between Belenenses SAD and SL Benfica at the Jamor stadium in Oeiras, Portugal, Nov. 27, 2021.

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“In Ontario, 22,950,908 vaccine doses have been administered. 89.7% of Ontarians 12+ have one dose and 86.3% have two doses. 145 people are hospitalized with #COVID19 , and 148 people are in ICU due to COVID-19. Please note that not all hospitals report on weekends,” Health Minister Christine Elliott tweeted.

“Individuals who are not fully vaccinated represent 23.6% of Ontario’s total population and amount to 439 of Ontario’s 788 new reported cases. 34 cases are in individuals with an unknown vaccination status.”

aartuso@postmedia.com

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