Omicron variant: Canada expands travel ban, seeks booster guidance

Canada is restricting travel from three more African countries and seeking guidance on COVID-19 boosters amid the emergence of the Omicron variant. 

Omicron variant: Canada expands travel ban, seeks booster guidance
© Bayne Stanley/The Canadian Press A WestJet Airlines Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner jet (C-GUDH) lands at sunset, Vancouver International Airport, Richmond, B.C. on Oct. 8.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said foreign nationals from Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt who have been to those countries over the past two weeks will not be able to enter Canada. This adds to the seven other African countries barred by Canada on Friday: South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.

Canadians and permanent residents, as well as all those who have the right to return to Canada, who have transited through these countries over the past two weeks, will have to quarantine, be tested at the airport, and await their test results before exiting quarantine, Duclos said.

The Canadian government is also asking National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to quickly provide latest directives on the use of boosters in the context of the new Omicron variant

“This call that we’re making is to ask NACI to provide quick guidance on whether we should revise national standards, national attitudes and actions on the use of boosters across Canada in the context of the new omicron variant,” Duclos said.

As of Tuesday, Canada had confirmed six cases of the Omicron variant: four in Ontario and one each in Quebec and Alberta.

Omicron is the fifth and latest variant of concern designated by the World Health Organization (WHO)

This variant is more heavily mutated than the other variants of concern, containing more than 30 mutations, which scientists fear might help it spread easily or even evade antibodies from prior infection or vaccination.

The WHO has warned that the Omicron COVID-19 poses a “very high” risk of infection surges that could have “severe consequences” in some places, though further research was needed to assess its potential impact.

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