UPDATE: Government implementing travel restrictions as new VOC is identified

COVID-19 test tube. (Photo from Pixabay)

The Government of Canada is putting new travel restrictions in place for individuals who are travelling from Southern Africa now that a new COVID-19 variant has been identified.

The new variant was found in several South African countries and early reports suggest there are concerns it could be vaccine-resistant.

The World Health Organization has now classified the new strain as a variant of concern and is calling it Omicron.  A strain is classified as a variant of concern when there is evidence of increased transmissibility and a decrease in the effectiveness of public health measures like vaccines.  To date, there has been no evidence of the strain in Canada.

Starting immediately, all foreign nationals who have travelled through some Southern African countries within the last 14 days are banned from coming into Canada. This includes all travel to seven different countries, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Namibia.  All those who have arrived in Canada in the last 14 days are being asked to quarantine immediately and to go for a COVID-19 test.

All Canadians and permanent residents travelling from these areas will be tested on arrival and be required to quarantine in an approved hotel until they receive a negative COVID-19 test.  If the test result is negative they will be allowed to quarantine at home until they are retested on day 10.

There are currently no direct flights to Canada from this region.  Travellers who are coming indirectly will be required to take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arriving in Canada.

Global Affairs Canada is also going to issue a Travel Advisory asking all Canadians not to travel to Southern Africa for the time being.

These measures will remain in place until at least January 31, 2022.