Premier Doug Ford is calling on the federal government to impose stronger border measures such as banning flights and passengers from countries where the new COVID-19 variant has been detected in South Africa.
“We cannot repeat the same mistakes that allowed Alpha and Delta variants to enter our country. Our best defense at the moment is to contain this variant at the border,” Ford said in a statement released Friday.
On Thursday, South African scientists told reporters they had discovered a new variant – called B.1.1.529 – that has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations, which worrisome because they can help it evade the body’s immune response and make it more contagious. .
New COVID-19 variant identified in South Africa worries scientists
The UK and EU have tightened border controls and imposed travel restrictions in the region.
Ford said after being briefed by Ontario’s chief medical officer, Dr Kieran Moore, about the new variant, he reached out to the federal government to express “my extreme concern about the risk” it causes and the need for immediate action.”
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“Until we can be sure that the vaccine is effective against this new variant, I call on the Government of Canada to follow suit with other governments by immediately banning all flights and passengers. from the countries concerned,” continued Ford.
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Early indications from diagnostic laboratories suggest the variant has been increasing rapidly in South Africa’s most populous Gauteng province and may have been present in eight other provinces of the country, they said.
South Africa has confirmed about 100 specimens as B.1.1.529, but this variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong, with the Hong Kong case involving a traveler from South Africa. Scientists believe that up to 90% of new cases in Gauteng could be B.1.1.529.
Meanwhile, Ford said anyone arriving must be screened and quarantined, including passengers arriving as early as Friday.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we must also reintroduce the destination test for all passengers arriving in Canada, regardless of where they come from,” said Ford.
“I have asked the Chief Medical Officer of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Public Health to immediately implement an expanded surveillance plan and update the scenario to ensure we are ready for any outcome.”
– with files from Reuters.
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