The first three cases of the Omicron coronavirus variety were reported in Toronto on Friday, increasing the total number of cases in Ontario to 11.
Two of the three residents who tested positive for the variety of concern (B.1.1.529) had returned from a vacation to Nigeria, while the other had been to Switzerland, according to a news release from Toronto Public Health (TPH).
TPH stated in a statement Friday evening that “these are the first cases of the Omicron variation of concern that have been validated by whole genome sequencing, reported in Toronto.”
“TPH’s case and contact management team is currently following up with these cases and is providing instructions to identify close contacts on isolation and testing.”
Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, said she is concerned but not surprised that one of the cases involved a traveller who did not return from one of the southern African countries affected by the federal government’s travel restrictions.
“The whole world is so interconnected. Someone flying from South Africa can go to any part of the world,” Banerji said.
“I think it’s a fallacy to say, to think that we control Omicron by just blocking travel from south Africa unless the whole world shuts down all travel. You can’t lock it. Already, it’s here.”
Banerji said while there are still many unknowns about Omicron, she is worried about how the variant is spreading quickly, especially in South Africa.
“We need to watch it and again, continue to be vigilant and be careful, especially as the holiday season approaches,” she said.
Infectious diseases epidemiologist Maria Sundaram said it’s likely that there is already community transmission in the province.
“We’re lucky that South Africa scientists were able to identify it and alert the world. But it doesn’t mean that it’s not already here sort of on our front doorstep,” she said.
“With regard to how transmissible it is, the initial data seems to show that it’s very transmissible. In fact, it’s out-competing the Delta variant in South Africa right now, which is very scary. We don’t really have very much data on the potential severity of the illness. So that’s one thing that I’m continuing to look for.”
Five new Omicron variant cases were reported on Friday, two of which were also in the Greater Toronto Area.
The first incidence of the variation was discovered in a youngster under the age of 12 from Vaughan, according to York Region Public Health. In the meantime, Durham officials verified the presence of a second case of Omicron in the area.
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, indicated earlier this week that more cases in the province were only a matter of time.