Omicron's spread across Canada: What we know about the COVID-19 variant so far

·4 min read

As the Omicron COVID-19 variant continue to be detected across Canada, provincial officials have called it "inevitable" that more cases of the variant will continue to be confirmed in the weeks ahead.

There are currently seven confirmed cases in Canada, detected in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec.


Ontario was the first province to report the variant of COVID-19, now with four confirmed cases in Ottawa. The initial two cases are linked to travel to Nigeria, with these individuals initially coming into Canada at the Montreal airport.

Public health in Hamilton, Ont., is also investigating two possible cases of the Omicron variant, individuals who recently returned from travel to South Africa and tested positive for COVID-19.

There's still much that we don't know about this Omicron variant, the extent of the transmissibility, the virulence and how safe and effective our vaccines are.Christine Elliott, Ontario's Deputy Premier and Minister of Health

On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he continue to have discussions with the federal government and other provincial and territorial leaders about possible further restrictions for travellers, particularly those from the U.S. who are currently exempt from the testing and quarantine rules for all international travellers announced Tuesday.

British Columbia

On Tuesday, the B.C. reported its first case of the Omicron variant, an individual who recently travelled to Nigeria, currently isolating in the Fraser Health Authority.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C. provincial health officer confirmed there are 204 people in B.C. who were recently in affected counties, who have been sent for PCR testing and are in isolation.

"We know that these concerning mutations can arise and where vaccination is low in part of the world, they can spread rapidly," Dr. Henry said at a press conference on Tuesday.

"This new variant of concern reminds us that we are in a global storm and that it is not equal everywhere around the world, and equal access to vaccination is something that's going to be important for us to get through this."

Dr. Henry stressed that it will take "some weeks" to get sufficient data to understand the threats of this variant.

We cannot stop this virus from transmitting but what we can try and do is slow it down to help us understand exactly where the virus is now.Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia provincial health officer

"But it also means that we need to take cautious and prudent action as we go through the next few weeks... We must anticipate and plan for the worst, even as we hope that this strain will not cause the havoc that we've seen with some others."

Dr. Henry said the level of concern is at "watchful" level at the moment.

"It's not widespread in B.C. right now, what we are seeing is 99.6 per cent of our cases are the Delta strains," she said. "It is inevitable, I believe, that we will see more cases but what we're not seeing is widespread transmission right now."


Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, also announced Tuesday that there is one confirmed case of the Omicron variant in the province, in a returning travellers from Nigeria and the Netherlands, who is currently in quarantine.

Dr. Hinshaw stressed that this individual and their household members have not done anything wrong.

"From previous variants and spread, we have at times seen stigma or criticism directed towards individuals or groups," she said. "I encourage all Albertans to show empathy to this household and any others who may eventually be identified with the Omicron variant."

Alberta's chief medical officer of health added that so far, the Omicron cases have been identified in mostly younger people so it is "difficult to determine whether or not there are any difference in outcomes with this variant."

"There seems to potentially be a bit of a higher risk of reinfection when someone has previously been infected," Dr. Hinshaw said.


Quebec confirmed its first case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant on Monday, with 115 travellers from affected countries contacted to do a PCR test and isolate themselves.

Minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, said Monday that the province is monitoring whether or not the new variant is vaccine resistant and it the virus is more contagious.

"We can see that the variant is starting to spread all over the world so no matter where you travel, you must be careful," Dubé said.

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