The New Omicron Variant: We Answered 5 Questions On Quebecers' Minds

Is it something to be concerned about? Are COVID-19 vaccines effective against it?

Staff Writer
The New Omicron Variant: We Answered 5 Questions On Quebecers' Minds

After our worry about the Delta variant, a new variant strain of COVID-19 has been the subject of many conversations lately: the Omicron variant. On November 26, the Canadian government announced several restrictions for travellers from seven countries to limit the spread of the Omicron variant in Canada.

News about this new variant leaves us with several questions: Is it something to be concerned about? Are COVID-19 vaccines effective against it? How is it being controlled? We decided to answer some frequently asked questions to help keep the public informed.

Where was the variant first detected?

"Public health authorities in South Africa have confirmed that a new COVID-19 variant of concern (B.1.1.529) has been detected in that country. Over the past 24 hours, this variant – named Omicron by the World Health Organization — has also been detected in other countries," the Government of Canada wrote in a news release.

The first case was detected in a sample collected on November 9 and reported to the World Health Organization on November 24, according to the WHO.

Are there any cases of the Omicron variant in Quebec?

"At this time, the variant has not been detected in Canada," the federal government wrote on November 26.

Is the Omicron variant concerning?

The WHO website states, "This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa."

The Omicron variant is classified as a "variant of concern." The WHO explains that such variants may have increased transmissibility and/or disease severity, among other factors.

Do COVID-19 vaccines work against this variant?

The WHO stated that a variant of this sort can have a "decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics."

How is it being controlled?

Until January 31, 2022, foreign nationals who have visited South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho or Eswatini in the last 14 days are not allowed to enter the country, the federal government confirmed.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have been in these countries within the last 14 days must present proof of a negative molecular test within the 72 hours prior to their arrival in Canada.

Once in Canada, these individuals must undergo another PCR test and be quarantined for 14 days. After that, they must be retested on the eighth day after their arrival in Canada. There are no exemptions, including for those who are fully vaccinated.

Health Canada has a robust website with all the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines and can answer any questions you may have.

This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

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