Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Nov. 30

Alberta and B.C. have detected their first cases of the omicron coronavirus variant, bringing the number of provinces that have reported the presence of the new variant to four, including Ontario and Quebec.

B.C., Alberta confirm 1st cases of omicron variant; Canada extends travel restrictions to more countries

Canada restricts travel from 3 more countries

1 year ago
Duration 7:02
Dr. David Naylor, co-chair of Canada's COVID-19 Immunity Task Force , joins Power & Politics to talk about the omicron COVID-19 variant and the efforts to curb its spread in Canada.

The latest:

Alberta and B.C. have detected their first cases of the omicron variant, bringing the number of provinces that have reported the presence of the new coronavirus variant to four, after Ontario and Quebec.

At a news conference Tuesday, Alberta's chief medical officer of health said the province's first case was confirmed in a returning traveller from Nigeria and the Netherlands.

"I don't want Albertans to be alarmed," Dr. Deena Hinshaw said. "As I mentioned [Monday], we anticipated the arrival of this variant in the province eventually based on what we've seen from previous strains of COVID-19."

The person tested positive while asymptomatic and has not left quarantine since returning to Canada, Hinshaw said.

B.C. has also reported its first omicron case, in the Fraser Health region, in a person travelling back from Nigeria.

That person is isolating, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a news conference Tuesday.

She also said health officials have been working since late last week to identify a further 204 people who had recently travelled to affected countries, and all of those people have been sent for PCR testing and put into isolation. 

"We can be confident that we're not seeing widespread transmission of this variant in B.C., yet," Henry said.

The province also updated its COVID-19 restrictions, including limiting worship services in B.C. (other than in Northern Health) to 50 per cent of capacity unless all participants are fully vaccinated.

The news out of Alberta and B.C. comes a day after Quebec confirmed one case of the variant and two more cases were confirmed in Ottawa, bringing the total detected in the country's capital to four.

Ontario has said it is reviewing measures to protect residents, including possible acceleration of the third dose vaccine strategy.

WATCH | Vaccine sharing more effective than travel bans, WHO says: 

Vaccine sharing more effective than travel bans, WHO says

1 year ago
Duration 6:55
As fears grow about the omicron variant, there needs to be 'more of a sense of urgency' on sharing vaccines, says Dr. Peter Singer, special adviser to the director general of the World Health Organization. 'This is a five-alarm blaze and we're not sending out enough fire trucks.' (Credit: AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

The emergence of the variant, which was first detected in South Africa last week and has been labelled a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO), has resulted in many countries, including Canada, moving to limit travel to and from southern African countries.

On Tuesday, Canada extended travel restrictions to incoming travellers from three more countries: Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria. The government had already banned travellers from seven countries in southern Africa.

At a news conference, federal officials also announced that incoming air travellers from all countries except the United States will be required to take COVID-19 tests when arriving in Canada.

The tests will be required regardless of a traveller's vaccination status, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said. The requirement will also apply to Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

Incoming travellers will have to self-isolate until they receive results of the test.

— From CBC News, last updated at 7 p.m. ET

What's happening across Canada

WATCH | Omicron variant puts hundreds in isolation: 

Omicron variant puts hundreds in isolation awaiting test results

1 year ago
Duration 2:10
Hundreds of Canadians are in isolation after recently returning from one of the southern African countries on the no-travel list as officials determine what public health measures might be needed to prevent a spike in cases.

What's happening around the world

As of Tuesday evening, more than 262.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to the case-tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.2 million.

In Africa, South Africa's President, Cyril Ramaphosa, is speaking out against travel bans, saying they punish his country for transparently disclosing information about a new variant.

"We are also insisting that these bans must be removed, they must be lifted," the president said of bans on travellers from several southern African nations. "Because you do not try and contain a virus through imposing bans unscientifically and indiscriminately."

In Europe, the omicron variant was already in the Netherlands when South Africa alerted WHO about it last week, Dutch health authorities said Tuesday, adding to fear and confusion over the new version of the coronavirus in a weary world hoping it had left the worst of the pandemic behind. The Netherlands' RIVM health institute found omicron in samples dating from Nov. 19 and 23. WHO said South Africa first reported the variant to the UN health agency on Nov. 24.

The Dutch announcement Tuesday further muddies the timeline on when the new variant actually emerged. Previously, the Dutch had said they found the variant among passengers who came from South Africa on Friday — but these new cases predate that.

France recorded its first omicron case on Tuesday, in the island territory of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. The patient was identified as a man who had returned to Reunion from South Africa and Mozambique on Nov. 20, before WHO learned of the variant.

In the U.K. where the government says 22 cases have been identified so far, new measures to combat the omicron variant of coronavirus took effect in England on Tuesday, with face coverings again compulsory in shops and on public transportation.

The government also said it would offer all adults a booster dose of vaccine within two months to bolster the nation's immunity.

From Tuesday morning, all travellers returning to the U.K. must also take a PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. Previously they had been able to take a lateral flow test and no quarantine was required.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, bumps elbows with a medic as a patient receives a COVID-19 vaccine during his visit to the Lordship Lane Primary care centre in London where he met staff and people receiving their booster vaccines. (Paul Grover/The Associated Press)

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 incidence rate has dropped slightly in Germany and Austria and stabilized in the Netherlands since the three countries introduced new measures to curb the spread of the virus, new data showed. After becoming hot spots in a new wave of infections in western Europe, Austria went into a fourth full lockdown last week and the Netherlands and Germany imposed new restrictions.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan reported its first case of the omicron variant on Tuesday — in a Namibian diplomat who had recently arrived from his country — the same day that a ban on all foreign visitors started.

Hong Kong expanded a ban on entry for non-residents from several countries as global health authorities raced to curb a potential outbreak of the omicron virus, while Australia is set to review containment steps after five people tested positive.

Cambodia barred entry to travellers from 10 African countries, citing the threat from the variant. The move came just two weeks after Cambodia reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travellers.

LISTEN | Fresh calls for vaccine equity: 
The emergence of the omicron coronavirus variant is sparking fresh calls for vaccine equity, including calls to temporarily waive patents around vaccine production.

In the Americas, a panel of U.S. health advisers on Tuesday narrowly backed a closely watched COVID-19 pill from Merck, setting the stage for a likely authorization of the first drug that Americans could take at home to treat the coronavirus.

The Food and Drug Administration panel voted 13-10 that the antiviral drug's benefits outweigh its risks, including potential birth defects if used during pregnancy.

"I see this as an incredibly difficult decision with many more questions than answers," said panel chair Dr. Lindsey Baden of Harvard Medical School, who voted in favour of the drug. He said FDA would have to carefully tailor the drug's use for patients who stand to benefit most.

Ecuador will impose entry curbs on travellers flying from or via a number of African countries and will request vaccine certificates from those arriving from other countries due to the new omicron variant, President Guillermo Lasso said on Monday.

In the Middle East, Iran on Monday reported 4,310 new cases of COVID-19 and 82 additional deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's case tracker.

— From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:30 p.m. ET

With files from Reuters and The Associated Press

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