The two travellers who have been identified as Canada’s first cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 first entered the country through the Montreal-Trudeau International Airport before continuing on to Ottawa, Ontario’s top doctor confirmed Monday.
Dr. Kieran Moore first said Sunday that the province had detected its first two cases of the new variant of concern in two individuals in Ottawa who had recently travelled from Nigeria.
Ontario’s chief medical officer of health added in an update with reporters Monday morning that those individuals first landed in Montreal and were tested there, with the positive results passed to the province from Quebec’s public health agency.
They then travelled on to Ottawa, Moore said.
Ottawa Public Health is now conducting contact tracing to see whether anyone else has contracted the virus in connection with the original two cases.
Moore said Monday that the province was looking at four other cases — two more in Ottawa and two in Hamilton — as possible instances of the Omicron variant.
Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, confirmed Monday that those additional cases are the Omicron variant, bringing the local total up to four cases, all of which are linked to travel from Nigeria.
All four people travelled independently of one another, she said.
The two Hamilton residents had recently returned from South Africa, the region’s health unit said in a statement Monday afternoon.
“I would not be surprised if we found more in Ontario,” Moore said.
Quebec also confirmed a case of the Omicron variant during a press briefing Monday afternoon.
Public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda said Quebec’s case also involved a person who had travelled from Nigeria, but he would not confirm whether it was linked to Ottawa’s cases. Like Moore, Arruda said he thinks there are likely other cases of the variant in Canada, given that experts believe Omicron has likely been circulating in some countries for weeks.
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On Saturday, OPH released a rare public statement advising of a possible exposure to COVID-19 during a Nov. 24 rideshare between the Montreal airport and Ottawa’s Barrhaven neighbourhood.
That trip might have seen the driver of the vehicle exposed to COVID-19.
Global News asked OPH if this incident is connected with any confirmed case of the Omicron variant but the health unit said it could not provide further details.
“To protect privacy and personal health information, Ottawa Public Health is unable to disclose additional information about the exposure,” a spokesperson said in a brief statement.
An OPH spokesperson did say Monday that the health unit has not heard from the driver of the rideshare yet.
— With files from The Canadian Press