Omicron variant 'very likely' involved in cluster of new COVID-19 cases in London, Ont., health officials say

The Middlesex-London Health Unit is advising a strong possibility that the Omicron variant might be involved in a cluster of at least 30 new COVID-19 cases that are being investigated.

At least 30 cases linked to the cluster of suspected Omicron cases

Katrina Taormina draws the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at Lehman High School, on Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in New York. (Mark Lennihan/The Associated Press)

The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) is advising there's a strong possibility that the Omicron variant could be involved in a cluster of new COVID-19 cases that are being investigated. 

The MLHU says they were able to identify at least 30 COVID-19 cases that are linked to the cluster of suspected Omicron cases. They add that the number of high-risk close contacts is rising and is expected to surpass 100. 

The unit was informed of this on Sunday evening after two tested positive for the S gene target failure (SGTF), a genetic marker that is consistent with the variant. 

Officials are still waiting for confirmation with the Whole Genomic Sequencing of all the samples but say that given travel history and lab screening results, it's highly likely that Omicron is a part of the cluster. 

The individuals who tested positive for the variant arrived in London, Ont., from Nigeria in late November.

At the MLHU briefing on Monday, Dr. Alex Summers, Acting Medical Officer of Health for the region, confirmed that they were fully vaccinated, and transmission may have been linked to a household spread. 

An evolving situation 

The unit says that so far the cases associated with the cluster are linked to several schools and child care centres. The cluster has also been linked to a COVID-19 outbreak at the God's Favourite House Church on Dearness Drive, in the city's south end. 

"The situation continues to evolve very quickly, but there's already enough evidence to indicate strongly that the Omicron variant has arrived in our region," said Summers. "While we're still learning about the variant, it's clear that it spreads easily.

"The news of Omicron variant today is upsetting, and unsettling, it's certainly not something we were looking for," he added.

Summers clarified that a rising case count among those fully vaccinated is to be expected because a vast majority of the population is vaccinated, however the number of serious infections and death still remain low. 

All positive cases and high-risk contacts associated with the cluster remain under investigation. They are told to quarantine regardless of their vaccination status.

The health unit says they plan to release more specific guidelines later this week to combat rising cases of the virus. 

Officials urge residents to follow all public health guidelines and get vaccinated, along with continuing to monitor themselves for any signs or symptoms associated with COVID-19.