First case of new Omicron COVID-19 variant confirmed in Hamilton

Small figurines are used to illustrate the virus during Covid-19 crisis. The Omicron coronavirus variant is likely to spread internationally, posing a "very high" global risk of infection surges that could have "severe consequences" some areas, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday. Photo by Aurore marechal/ABACAPRESS.COM . Aurore marechal/ABACAPRESS.COM

One of two Hamilton-area residents who travelled to Africa is the first in the city to test positive for the Omicron COVID-19 variant, according to public health.

The city agency confirmed the test results from an Ontario lab on Saturday, just days after the province’s top doc revealed an investigation.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said the two individuals returned from Africa, tested positive for COVID and had samples sent for genome sequencing.

Results for the second case under investigation is still in the process of being sequenced and expected in the coming days, according city officials.

City health officials have been urging anyone who travelled to Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe within 14 days before arriving in Hamilton to self-isolate, even if vaccinated.

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They are also recommending travelers get tested for COVID-19 at a local assessment centre, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

As of Friday, at least four provinces across Canada have reported cases of Omicron, with seven cases in Ontario, three in Alberta, one in B.C., and a single case in Quebec.

Despite the emergence of the new variant, deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said on Friday Delta is still the primary concern for public health Canada since Omicron is not widespread.

The jury’s still out on whether the new variant is more contagious, can cause more serious illness and/or can evade the protection offered by existing COVID-19 vaccines, according to Canada’s health officials.

“Delta is our variant of concern — and the vaccines we are currently administering are effective against serious illness and effective against Delta,” Njoo said speaking in French.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to have more information on whether Omicron is more transmissible “in days,” according to officials.

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Hamilton reports 36 new COVID-19 cases

Public health reported 36 new COVID-19 cases in Hamilton on Friday which is above the average number of cases (24) seen over the past seven days.

The city had an overall average case rate of 19 per day for all of November.

Active cases held steady day over day, remaining at 280 as of Nov. 3.

More than 78 per cent of all active cases are in people under the age of 50, while 45 per cent are under 30.

The city’s per cent positivity rate — representing the number of tests returning positive from labs — dropped slightly week over week to 2.2 per cent from 2.4 per cent. The number is still lower than the provincial average of 2.9 per cent reported on Friday.

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The city revealed three new outbreaks on Friday, with the largest involving four cases with a truck rental agency. There are 13 combined outbreaks across Hamilton involving 37 total cases.

Two school outbreaks were closed on Thursday: at Rehoboth Christian School and St. Gabriel Catholic Elementary School. The surge at St Gabriel was tied to 14 total cases — one among staff and 13 among students.

In the last 14 days, both public boards combined have reported 84 cases, with 59 among students. Twenty-one of the cases are tied to ongoing outbreaks.

There are 13 reported outbreaks in the city involving 37 total cases.

Hospitals in Hamilton are reporting a combined 15 COVID-19 patients as of Friday, one more than the 14 reported on Thursday.

Both St. Joe’s and Hamilton Health Sciences are averaging less than one new hospital admission each day.

Over 83.5% of eligible Hamiltonians 12-plus fully vaccinated

Over the last seven days, Hamilton’s health partners have administered close to 16,000 vaccine doses, with Friday recording the largest intake over the week — 2,857 shots.

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With a COVID-19 vaccine becoming available to kids aged five through 11, the city saw a 67.9 per cent increase in doses administered over seven days.

As of Wednesday, 83.5 per cent of eligible Hamiltonians over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated while 86.4 per cent have had at least a single dose. The city is still behind the provincial average which has 87.2 per cent fully vaccinated, 90 per cent have had at least one vaccine dose.

Residents aged 70 to 84 have reached the Ministry of Health’s target of 90 per cent first and second dose coverage.

Hamiltonians aged 25 to 29 represent the lowest vaccination rates of those eligible in the community at just over 73.6 per cent fully vaccinated.

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