Omicron: Canada advises against foreign travel, Cambodia, Philippines see first cases

Ontario Premier Doug Ford also said all adults in Ontario can book virus booster shots beginning Monday if three months have passed since their second vaccine dose.

Published: 16th December 2021 09:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th December 2021 09:17 AM   |  A+A-


Coronavirus (Photo | AP)


TORONTO: The Canadian government on Wednesday advised Canadians against all non-essential international travel, and the largest province of Ontario capped capacity at large events like NBA and NHL games at 50% because of the new coronavirus variant.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford also said all adults in Ontario can book virus booster shots beginning Monday if three months have passed since their second vaccine dose.

Canada trails the U.S, Britain and other countries in getting citizens booster shots.

"We aren't going to lock down the system and try to get out this," Ford said.

Ford said the best defense is to get a booster shot.

"That's our plan and that's what we're going to get done," he said.

Bars and restaurants remain at 100% capacity.

Provincial officials said the capacity limit applies only to any event with 1,000 or more spectators.

There were 1,808 new coronavirus cases reported in Ontario and 2,386 in Quebec on Monday.

Ford said the omicron variant is the most contagious variant seen yet and is on the verge of becoming the most dominant strain in the province if it isn't already.

The city of Kingston, Ontario, announced earlier this week that it is limiting gatherings to a maximum of five people in response to the fast spread of the omicron variant there.

Some school boards in Ontario are making preparations for the possibility of a return to remote learning in the new year.

The Toronto District School Board sent a memo to parents asking that students take home personal belongings and devices from classrooms as well as any tools or supplies they might need to pivot to remote learning.

The Waterloo Region District School Board issued a similar memo Wednesday, saying its staff had prepared schools to "ensure a smooth transition, if required."

Cambodia has confirmed its first case of the omicron variant in a 23-year-old Cambodian woman who recently returned from the African country of Ghana, according to health officials.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, speaking Wednesday at a hotel inauguration in the capital Phnom Penh, urged people not to panic at the news and to continue to use preventative measures against the virus.

A Health Ministry statement on Tuesday said the Cambodian woman had been working Ghana and returned Sunday via Dubai and Bangkok.

She received positive test results from a rapid virus test when she arrived, and further testing on Tuesday found she had the omicron variant, the statement added.

The ministry said the woman, who is 15 months pregnant, was otherwise in good health and was being treated at a government medical facility in the capital, Phnom Penh.

Two of Cambodia's neighbors, Laos and Vietnam, have not yet confirmed any omicron cases, while a third, Thailand, has nine confirmed cases, all from foreign arrivals, and five suspected cases.

Cambodia's Health Ministry on Wednesday reported eight new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the country's total to 120,390 since the pandemic began last year.

There were three new deaths, bringing the number of fatalities to 2,995.

The Philippines said Wednesday it has detected its first cases of the omicron strain in two travellers who arrived recently from Japan and Nigeria.

The Department of Health said the omicron variant was detected in a Filipino man, who flew back home from Japan on a Philippine Airlines flight on Dec.1.

The second case was detected in a Nigerian national, who arrived in Manila from his country via Oman Air on Nov.30.

Both travelers tested positive for the coronavirus after arrival and the results of additional tests showed on Tuesday that they were infected by the omicron strain, the department said.

The two are confined in a government-run isolation facility without any symptoms, the health department said, adding it was checking whether any of their fellow passengers in their flights to the Philippines had been infected too.

Health officials renewed their call for Filipinos to wear protective masks properly, wash and disinfect their hands frequently and stay safely away from people and big crowds.

"We continue to remind the public not to let their guard down, to religiously observe minimum public health standards and call upon all those unvaccinated to get their jabs as soon as possible," presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles told a televised news conference.

The Philippines imposed one of the strictest and longest lockdowns in the world after the pandemic hit in March last year, causing its economy to plummet by 9.5% last year in the country's worst recession since World War II.

Health officials reported just 237 confirmed infections with 100 deaths Wednesday.


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