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Will Omicron Warrant Travel Ban By Canada For More Countries

Omicron (abbreviated as OMI in this article), latest variant of COVID is making the headlines. This article highlights the effects of this new variant on new immigrants and foreign nationals coming to Canada. It is considered to be strongest COVID strain till date. However, there is very less data to determine this as of now.

Meaning of Omicron:

It’s fifteenth letter of the Greek alphabet (Ο, ο), transliterated as ‘o.’ In Astronomy it means the fifteenth star in a constellation. Governments around the globe have already implemented precautionary measures.

Canada’s Response:

Canada has recently banned foreign nationals from 10 countries and also implemented stricter travel measures.

Ontario reported 5th case of this new variant in Durham region approximately 6 hours ago. Alberta recorded 4th case almost 2 hours ago. British Columbia and Quebec have already identified 1 case of “OMI.”

No positive “OMI” cases in Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Maritime Provinces.

Omicron around the Globe:

As of now, Omicron has been detected in at least 24 more countries around the world. Below is the list of these countries. Immigrants planning to enter Canada from these countries should look at Omicron scenario closely. Travel requirements can change anytime based on situation in their country.

Omicron Situation Around The World:

10 countries are already facing travel restrictions from Canada because of Omicron variant. Following are 24 additional countries with number of cases detected as of Dec 2 (Source: Bloomberg):  

  1. Portugal: 19 cases identified. The cases are all related to infections at the Belenenses SAD soccer club, Graca Freitas
  2. Netherlands: 13 cases detected among travelers from South Africa
  3. France: 13 suspected cases, according to a government spokesman
  4. Australia: 6 cases in New South Wales State. The sixth case was a fully vaccinated traveler who had recently visited southern Africa, according to NSW Health
  5. Canada: 5 cases, including a first case in Quebec who had traveled from Nigeria, according to Reuters, citing Ottawa Public Health
  6. South Korea: 5 cases confirmed, including a couple who returned from Nigeria and their contacts
  7. Hong Kong SAR: 4 imported cases confirmed, two of them related to South Africa and the others to Nigeria
  8. Switzerland: 3 cases. People are in isolation
  9. India: 2 new cases detected in Karnataka.
  10. Brazil: 2 cases spotted in samples from a married couple who had recently arrived from South Africa
  11. Norway: 2 cases confirmed in the Oygarden municipality. Both people had been traveling in South Africa
  12. Denmark: 2 cases in arrivals from South Africa
  13. Belgium: 1 case
  14. Israel: 1 confirmed case and other suspected ones, as of Nov. 27.
  15. Italy: 1 case who moved around the country before testing positive
  16. Czech Republic: 1, according to local media
  17. Austria: 1 confirmed case in Tyrol for person arriving from South Africa. Authorities reviewing another 30 suspected cases.
  18. Spain: 1 case, according to Madrid’s health ministry
  19. Sweden: 1 case, according to the country’s Public Health Agency
  20. Japan: 1 confirmed patient, who returned from Namibia. A second case was recorded in a person arriving from Peru
  21. Ireland: 1  case confirmed in a person who traveled to a risk area
  22. U.S.: 1 case detected in California in a traveler who returned from South Africa and was fully vaccinated, according to the CDC
  23. U.A.E.: 1 case confirmed
  24. Saudi Arabia: 1 case confirmed

Anticipation Among Experts:

None of the expert opinions are conclusive as of now, but there have been following anticipations:       

  1. It’s the most evolved and mutated COVID variant as of today.
  2. It may have long incubation period, so it could be hard to detect initially.
  3. Vaccines are comparatively less effect as they were against previous strains.
  4. More research is required to figure out the nature of new variant.

An expert from India said the incubation period may be long as two cases detected had negative PCR test while boarding from South Africa.

What Can Immigrants Expect From Canada’s Response to Omicron:

  1. U.S. has already announced pre-departure COVID test to be done within 24 hours of flight. Previously, this was 72 hours. Canada may follow the footsteps and implement this regulation if situation deteriorate in coming days.
  2. Furthermore, officials from Canadian government has already warned that travel may change anytime with new facts coming into light. If your country is among the aforementioned list of 24 countries, then should keep a strict watch on emerging situation in your country.
  3. You might be looking at a flight ban, if cases increased significantly in your country as we saw previously India and Pakistan because of Delta variant.
  4. Apart from this, if Omicron situation blows out, then expect more delays in visa results and backlog may pile up for IRCC.

Canada has already banned 10 countries considered to be origin of this new variant. Additionally, they are working with provincial governments to implement mandatory on-arrival testing via land border or air for U.S. They have already implemented mandatory testing for fully vaccinated travelers from around the globe except U.S.

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