The Durham Region Health Department (DRHD) says they have confirmed one case of the Omicron variant from a close contact of a returning traveller from a country in southern Africa.
“The Health Department is also monitoring other COVID-19 cases under investigation for the Omicron variant based on travel history and working with the province to monitor COVID-19 variants of concern including Delta and Omicron,” the local public health unit said.
It also said it would not reveal any more information about the confirmed case.
Earlier this week, four other COVID-19 cases of the Omicron variant were detected in Ontario.
Omicron was recently declared the fifth variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) since the pandemic began.
Health officials are still unsure if Omicron is more transmissible but the WHO said it would have more data “within days.”
The federal government recently imposed travel restrictions on countries in southern Africa including Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
“While this new variant is no reason for alarm, it is important to remain vigilant and continue to follow public health measures that have proven to be effective throughout the pandemic,” Durham Region’s medical officer of health Dr. Robert Kyle said.
Outbreak declared at Toronto East Detention Centre
Meanwhile, Toronto Public Health (TPH) says they have declared a COVID-19 outbreak at the Toronto East Detention Centre involving the Omicron variant.
In a post on Twitter Thursday, TPH said the original case involved a staff member at the facility, which is located near Birchmount Road and Eglinton Avenue.
Four inmates at the centre have also tested positive for COVID-19, but the strain of the virus for those cases is not yet known.
Earlier Thursday, TPH said in a news release that they had declared a COVID-19 outbreak at the Toronto East Detention Centre “out of an abundance of caution.”
“The individual who has tested positive is currently under investigation by Durham Region Health Department with a suspected case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant,” the release said.
At the time, officials said there was no evidence of transmission within the facility.
It is not clear if the case at the detention centre is the same Omicron case confirmed by Durham health officials Thursday or if it is linked to it. Global News contacted both TPH and the DRHD, but neither health unit provided clarification.
TPH said their investigation into the detention centre first began on Nov. 26 and the facility voluntarily began redirecting new admissions on Monday.
The Solicitor General’s office told Global News in a statement that they are aware of the outbreak at the facility and added that COVID-19 precautions are in place, including diverting new admissions and suspending public visits.
Inmates and staff are being tested, the statement said.
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