OTTAWA – Canada is closing the border to all foreigners who have been to seven countries in southern Africa in the past 14 days as a new COVID-19 variant of concern continues to spread around the world.
Restrictions for Canadians returning home and a host of new testing and quarantine requirements apply to those who have set foot in so much of South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini in the past two weeks, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Transport Minister Omar Alghabara said on Friday afternoon.
For example, people in Canada who have visited one of those countries in the past two weeks must now be quarantined and get a COVID-19 test as soon as possible.
Canadians and permanent residents who will be visiting the region from now on will need to obtain a negative PCR COVID-19 test before the final leg of their return journey (there are no direct flights to Canada), then return to Canada. They will be tested and sent to a quarantine hotel until they get a negative result.
When this happens, they will be able to leave the hotel to stay at home for 14 days and be tested again eight days after their arrival in Canada.
All these new requirements apply regardless of vaccination status, the ministers clarified.
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The news comes as the new COVID-19 strain, currently known as B.1.1529 and first identified this week, was officially designated as “a cause of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday. Roop” and was named “Omicron”. ,
“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are related.
Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of re-infection with this variant compared to other (concerned forms), the WHO said in a statement.
Global Affairs Canada (GAC) will also update its travel advisory to strongly discourage travel to any of those seven countries.
Canada’s latest measures are expected to remain in place until January 31, although ministers warned that they could be expanded and expanded to include more countries if the Omicron variant becomes prevalent in other countries.
On the same day, the US government also announced a similar travel ban for foreigners who had recently visited southern Africa. The UK closed its border to South Africa on Thursday evening, and the European Commission recommended that all member states also suspend air travel to and from Southern African and “other countries affected”.
This variant contains a large number of mutations, some of which are related
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that no cases of the new version have been detected here yet.
Tam explained that the oomicron version is important because it carries a series of mutations in two key regions of the virus’s spike protein, which allow it to enter our body’s cells and cause infection. Preliminary data indicates that the new strain has an extremely high rate of transmission.
“Mutations in these regions can affect our body’s natural immunity, as well as potentially reduce the immunity offered by vaccines,” Tam said.
“Because of the increased transmittance potential and the potential for increased resistance to vaccine-induced protection, we are concerned about this new variant and are closely monitoring the evolving situation.”
Hours before the announcement, opposition parties and leaders in Canada’s largest provinces on Friday morning called on the federal government to ban all non-essential travel from African countries affected by the new version.
“With reports of the spread of a new COVID-19 variant, we have a small window of opportunity to act, and we must move on now. Canadian conservatives are calling on Justin Trudeau to secure Canada’s borders,” Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said in a statement Friday morning.
The call was quickly echoed by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Quebec Premier François Legault and Block Québécois.
“We cannot repeat the same mistakes that allowed the Alpha and Delta variants to enter our country. Our best defense right now is stopping this version at the limit,” Ford said in a statement on Friday.
A spokesman for Hong Kong’s health department told Reuters on Thursday it was found in a man who was traveling from Canada, who was staying in a hotel room adjacent to another South African traveler who had the variant. And a poor quality mask was found. ,
Canada’s top doctor said she was aware of the matter and that her department would contact Hong Kong authorities to get more information about the case. But he also said he suspects the Canadian traveler caught it during a trip or at a quarantine hotel.