OTTAWA – Canada will ban the entry of all foreign nationals who have traveled through southern Africa in the past 14 days as concerns about a new variant of the coronavirus grow.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said people who have traveled across southern Africa in the past 14 days and are currently in Canada are urged to quarantine now and take a COVID-19 test.
The countries include South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.
These people must remain in quarantine until they test negative, he said.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said there are currently no direct flights from the region to Canada.
Canadians and other permanent residents returning to Canada from the region via another country must take a negative COVID-19 test in the third country.
They will also be tested upon arrival in Canada, Duclos said, and will be quarantined until they have proof of a negative test.
He said those people would then be quarantined in a safe place, but had to be tested again on the eighth day.
Duclos said Global Affairs Canada will also issue a travel advisory, asking all Canadians not to travel to southern Africa, noting the government “is acting quickly to protect the health and safety of Canadians.”
According to Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, laboratories across Canada have been “alerted” to variant B.1.1.529 and have “looked for possible detections.”
“But to date, there is no indication that the variant is in Canada,” Tam said. “To date, no identification of this variant has been made during tests carried out on travelers after their arrival. “
While the variant is still under investigation, Tam said it was considered “unusual” due to the high number of mutations.
“Due to the potential for increased transmissibility and the possibility of increased resistance to vaccine-induced protection, we are concerned about this new variant and are closely monitoring developments,” she said. to journalists.
Tam said it was “very difficult” to keep the transfer out of Canada “entirely”.
“The border is never 100%, but each layer offers an additional layer of protection,” she said.
While the travel ban currently covers just seven countries, Alghabra said authorities will continue to monitor data from around the world as well as border testing.
“We will take additional precautionary measures if necessary,” he said, adding that officials will “constantly” reassess and reassess the list of affected countries.
A ‘VARIANT OF CONCERN’
The news from Canada comes just after the World Health Organization (WHO) identified B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern and named it “Omicron”.
According to the WHO, the variant was first reported in South Africa on November 24.
Since then, cases of the variant have been reported in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.
The WHO has said that this variant has a “large number of mutations”, some of which “are of concern”.
“Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of re-infection with this variant, compared to other VOCs,” read a press release.
According to the WHO, the number of cases of this variant “seems to be increasing in almost all the provinces of South Africa”,
Fears over the variant have prompted several countries, including Britain, the United States and the European Union, to tighten their border controls.
But, speaking at a press conference on Friday, South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the travel bans were against WHO norms and standards.
With a Reuters file
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