By Gordon Lambie
In response to the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant of concern, named Omicron by the World Health Organization, the Government of Canada has implemented new border restrictions. As of Friday and until January 31, 2022, all Canadian citizens, permanent residents and people with status under the Indian Act, who have been in Southern Africa — including South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Namibia— within the last 14 days before arriving in Canada will be subject to enhanced testing, screening, and quarantine measures.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the concern over the new variant is tied to the likelihood that it is both more transmissible and more resistant to the body’s natural immunity and vaccines than other variants observed so far.
According to an advisory from the government, these individuals will be required to obtain a valid negative COVID-19 molecular test in a third country within 72 hours of departure, before continuing to Canada. Upon arrival in Canada, regardless of their vaccination status or having had a previous history of testing positive for COVID-19, they will subject to immediate arrival testing. All travellers will also be required to complete a test on day 8 after arrival and quarantine for 14 days, following a plan that they share with representatives of the PHAC.
Travellers from these areas who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents and people with status under the Indian Act will not be allowed to enter the country.
This travel ban and new set of restrictions was imposed only on the aforementioned region, despite the fact that cases of the Omicron variant have already been detected in several European countries.
There are no direct flights between Canada any southern African countries.
The Province of Quebec reported 3,083 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing the total number of people infected since the start of the pandemic to 446,631. Both Friday and Saturday’s numbers showed more than 1,000 new infections in a day, and Saturday’s showed the highest number of new daily cases recorded since April.
There were only three new deaths reported over the weekend, bringing that total to 11,574.
Hospitalizations also increased, going from 210 with 45 in intensive care in Thursday’s report, to 216 with 48 in intensive care on Sunday.
As of 8 a.m. on Saturday, 172,600 appointments had been booked for vaccinations among the province’s children aged 5-11.
Friday’s update from the Eastern Townships saw 279 new cases added, bringing the total number of active cases in the region to 1,034. The highest number of active cases previously reported in the region on a single day is 1,163 on Dec. 6 of 2020.
Of Friday’s total, 335 cases were in Sherbrooke, 190 were in Memphremagog, 145 were in Des Sources, 128 were in Granit, 84 were in the Haute-Yamaska, 49 were in Coaticook, 47 were in the Haut-Saint-François, 33 were in the Val Saint-François, and 16 were in the Pommeraie. Looked at in relation to their population sizes, the rate of infection was highest in Des Sources, Granit, and Memphremagog.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,777,814 cases of COVID-19 and 29,600 deaths reported in Canada.