“Today, the province of Ontario has confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria. Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management and the patients are in isolation.
The best defence against the Omicron variant is stopping it at our border. In addition to the measures recently announced, we continue to urge the federal government to take the necessary steps to mandate point-of-arrival testing for all travellers irrespective of where they’re coming from to further protect against the spread of this new variant.
Regardless, Ontario is prepared and ready to respond to this new variant. Our hospital and intensive care capacity remain stable and the province continues to report one of the lowest rates of active cases in the country. The Ontario COVID-19 Genomic Network is continuing to actively monitor for all potential variants circulating in the province, including the Omicron variant, and is conducting genomic sequencing on 100 per cent of eligible COVID-19 positive samples. Since January 1, 2021, the network has sequenced over 48,000 samples.
Ontario has the infrastructure in place to manage outbreaks, including high-volume capacity for testing with 230 assessment centres and community labs and over 500 pharmacies offering testing to those who need it. The government is also enhancing its COVID-19 testing strategy by expanding the number of testing locations and making it more convenient to access publicly funded testing for those who need it as we head into the colder months and more people gather indoors.
In order to rapidly identify, trace and isolate COVID-19 and its variants, Ontario has already expanded eligibility for provincially-funded COVID-19 PCR testing at all testing centres to individuals who have returned from, or travelled in, the following locations between November 1st and December 6th, 2021: South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. Asymptomatic family members and other household contacts of travellers are also eligible for testing. This list of travel locations may be updated as we learn more about the new variant. Anyone experiencing symptoms, even if they are mild, is strongly recommended to get tested.
If you are eligible for a booster dose, please book your appointment today to provide yourself with an extra layer of protection. The government is working to accelerate the rollout of booster doses to additional age groups and will provide more details this week. If you have not yet received the vaccine, please do so today. This includes vaccinations for children aged five to 11. Achieving the highest vaccination rates possible remains key to reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission and significant surges in cases.
We also recognize that residents in Ontario’s long-term care homes are at particular risk from COVID-19 and its variants. That’s why we have made vaccinations mandatory for long-term care staff, support workers, students and volunteers. The province is also offering third doses to long-term care residents and boosters to staff. As of November 26, more than 88 per cent of eligible residents have already received their third dose.
We continue to urge all Ontarians to remain vigilant and continue following the public health and workplace safety measures in place that have been working for us and will help us get through this. However, we will continue to monitor trends in key public health and health system indicators, monitor for and learn about this new variant, and we will act quickly if necessary.
We continue to be in constant contact with the Public Health Agency of Canada and other jurisdictions to monitor the developing situation and ensure coordinated, effective and shared efforts to protect the public.”
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