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Alberta confirms its first case of Omicron COVID-19 variant in a traveller

Asymptomatic individual has not left quarantine since their arrival from international travel
Alberta chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, provides a COVID-19 update in Edmonton on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta is reporting its first case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant that has now been detected in four Canadian provinces.

Chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the case was confirmed in a traveller returning from Nigeria and the Netherlands.

“The individual tested positive while asymptomatic. I can confirm that this individual has not left quarantine since their arrival from international travel,” Hinshaw said Tuesday at a news conference in Edmonton.

“We have notified the individual and their household and all necessary measures are in place to prevent transmission.”

The variant of concern was first identified in South Africa after a spike in infections, but it is unclear where Omicron first emerged. Preliminary evidence suggests the new variant transmits more easily.

British Columbia also announced its first Omicron case on Tuesday. Ontario reported its earliest cases on Sunday and Quebec its first case on Monday.

Hinshaw said Alberta is ready to deal with Omicron.

“While it is important that we all continue to be vigilant in the face of COVID-19 to protect ourselves and others, I don’t want Albertans to be alarmed,” said Hinshaw, who added that the arrival of Omicron was anticipated based on the emergence of previous strains of COVID-19.

“We are well prepared for this eventuality and have the necessary tools in place to monitor this case and any potential spread of the variant.”

The goal is to delay the spread of Omicron as more information on the variant becomes available, Hinshaw said.

The World Health Organization, which designated Omicron as a variant of concern last week, stated it has a “large number of mutations, some of which are concerning.”

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced Tuesday that all air travellers entering Canada will be required to take a COVID-19 test, even if they are fully vaccinated, and to isolate until results are available.

Only people coming from the United States will be exempt.

Also Tuesday, Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria were added to Canada’s border closure list, which already included bans on foreign nationals from seven southern African countries, to protect against Omicron.

—Alanna Smith, The Canadian Press

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