Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Nov. 29
Ottawa confirms 2 more cases of omicron variant, bringing total to 4; Quebec confirms its 1st case
- 2 more test positive for omicron variant in Ottawa.
- Quebec confirms 1st case of omicron COVID-19 variant.
- U.S. president says omicron variant is 'cause for concern, not a cause for panic.'
- Ontario reviewing 3rd dose vaccine strategy in wake of omicron variant, top doctor says.
- G7 health ministers agree to closely monitor omicron variant after virtual meeting.
- Japan joins Israel in banning foreign visitors as omicron coronavirus variant spreads.
- Track how many people have been given the COVID-19 vaccine across Canada.
Quebec has confirmed one case of the new omicron COVID-19 variant, while two more cases have been confirmed in Ottawa, bringing the total detected in the city to four.
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.
At a news conference Monday, Quebec's Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda said tests revealed the variant in a woman who had recently returned from Nigeria.
The case was discovered after 115 people in the province who had travelled to southern African countries were asked to take a new COVID-19 test and isolate, in accordance with new federal government rules announced Friday, Health Minister Christian Dubé said.
Quebec is the second province to confirm the presence of the variant, after two cases were confirmed in Ottawa on Sunday. Those cases, both in individuals who had also recently travelled from Nigeria, were found to have returned to the country through Montreal's Trudeau airport.
Arruda would not confirm whether the cases were related.
Late Monday afternoon, Ottawa Public Health said two more returned travellers have tested positive for the variant.
In addition, Ontario is investigating two possible cases in the Hamilton area.
The province is reviewing measures to protect residents, including the possible acceleration of the province's third dose vaccine strategy, according to Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore at a news conference Monday.
"We will be reviewing options and providing them to government in the next few days, and I would anticipate an announcement by the end of this week on an enhanced strategy to best protect Ontarians," he said.
— From CBC News, last updated at 6 p.m. ET
What's happening across Canada
- 156 travellers being monitored for omicron variant, Alberta premier says.
- COVID-19 immunization clinics open for B.C. kids ages 5-11.
- Tougher COVID-19 rules imposed in Ontario towns with lowest vaccination rates.
- Manitoba reports 342 new COVID-19 cases, 10 deaths over 3 days.
- Moncton Hospital plans second COVID-19 unit as outbreaks grow.
- N.S. long-term care home asks family members to help amid staffing shortage.
- Quebec reports 756 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, 2 new deaths.
- Latke drive-thrus and LED menorahs: Calgarians find creative ways to celebrate 2nd pandemic Hanukkah.
What's happening around the world
As of Monday evening, more than 262 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.2 million.
WHO on Monday pushed for an international accord to help prevent and fight future pandemics, with Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus saying the emergence of the omicron variant "underlines just how perilous and precarious our situation is."
Tedros made the comments at a largely virtual special session of WHO's member states at the World Health Assembly, a gathering aimed at devising a global action plan toward preventing, preparing for and responding to future pandemics.
Tedros called for a "legally binding" agreement that wasn't mentioned in a draft text seeking consensus on the way forward.
"Our current system disincentivizes countries from alerting others to threats that will inevitably land on their shores," he said, noting that South Africa and Botswana — where the new variant has been detected — should be praised and not "penalized" for their work, alluding to travel restrictions announced by many countries on air travel to and from the region.
In the Americas, U.S. President Joe Biden sought to reassure Americans on Monday that the United States was prepared to handle the new omicron variant, pledging to accelerate development of vaccines to handle it if necessary.
"This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic," Biden said in remarks at the White House following a meeting with his COVID-19 team.
"Sooner or later we are going to see cases of this new variant here in the United States," Biden said. The White House is working with vaccine makers Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to develop contingency plans, if needed, to handle omicron, he said.
In Europe, Britain reacted to concerns about the omicron variant by expanding its COVID-19 booster program to everyone 18 and older, making millions more people eligible. Up until now, booster shots were available only to those 40 and over and people particularly vulnerable to the virus. The U.K. has reported about a dozen omicron cases.
Spain on Monday became one of the latest countries to report its first confirmed omicron case, detected in a traveller who returned Sunday from South Africa after making a stopover in Amsterdam.
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In Africa on Sunday, a South African doctor who was one of the first to suspect the presence of a new variant said omicron appeared so far to be producing mild symptoms.
However, Abdool Karim, a professor at South Africa's University of KwaZulu-Natal and Columbia University in the United States, said it was too early to draw firm conclusions, because doctors can only comment on patients who they treat.
"In terms of clinical presentation, there's not enough data yet," he said.
Meanwhile, South Africa's health minister called on Monday for a lifting of "discriminatory" travel bans imposed on southern African countries because of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
"We find these travel bans discriminatory in light of the fact that the same travel bans have not been imposed on other countries where this variant has been found," Joe Phaahla told WHO in a speech.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines on Monday launched an ambitious drive to vaccinate nine million people against COVID-19 in three days, deploying security forces and thousands of volunteers in a program made urgent by the threats of the omicron variant. Three million daily vaccinations would be nearly quadruple the national average of 829,000 during November.
Meanwhile, Singapore and Malaysia reopened one of the world's busiest land borders on Monday, allowing vaccinated travellers to cross after nearly two years of remaining shut due to the pandemic.
In the Middle East, OPEC and its allies have postponed technical meetings to later this week, giving themselves more time to assess the impact of the new omicron coronavirus variant on oil demand and prices, according to OPEC+ sources and documents.
— From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 6 p.m. ET
With files from Reuters and The Associated Press