Five cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant have been confirmed in Canada to date.
“Obviously, we’re watching very, very closely the situation with Omicron. We know that, even though Canada has very strong border measures now — we need vaccinations to come to Canada, we need pre-departure tests, we do testing on arrival,” Trudeau told reporters as he walked into a Tuesday cabinet meeting.
“There may be more we need to do and we’ll be looking at it very carefully.”
Canada has already taken some steps to batten down its borders in response to worries about the newly discovered Omicron variant. On Friday, the government banned travellers from seven African countries: South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.
Other countries have enacted similar bans, including the region of Hong Kong, which closed its borders to Canadians on Tuesday.
The WHO has warned that the global risk from Omicron is “very high,” with early evidence suggesting it might be more contagious than other variants of concern.
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The variant has a number of mutations in two key areas of the virus’ spike protein, according to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, including on the spike receptor-binding domain, which is where the virus attaches itself and invades our cells.
That, Tam warned on Friday, could “signify a potential for increased transmissibility of the virus.”
The other concerning mutations in the Omicron variant are on what’s known as the “antigenic supersite.”
“Mutations to this area of the virus may impact our body’s natural immunity as well as potentially reduce immunity offered by vaccines,” Tam said.
When pressed on whether Canada can expect more restrictions as a result of this new COVID-19 variant, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos was tight-lipped.
Canada will have to “learn more” about the variant and its possible impacts, including on transmission, infection, and vaccines, Duclos told reporters, speaking in French on Tuesday.
He added that he hopes to say more “as soon as possible.”
— with files from The Associated Press