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Trudeau discusses Omicron with prime ministers

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will speak by phone with the prime ministers of the country’s 10 provinces on Tuesday to discuss the rapidly spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus, his office said.

A provincial source, who asked to remain anonymous, said the call was set to take place at 6 p.m. ET.

Separately, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters that Ottawa would act quickly and do what was necessary, but gave no details.

Canada has announced a ban on people who have recently traveled to 10 countries in Africa.

Omicron, which health officials say is more contagious than the currently predominant Delta variant, has begun spreading locally in communities in Canada since it was first detected in November.

Ontario, the most populous of the 10, has halted plans to remove pandemic-related curbs and asked employees to continue working from home. It announced measures on Tuesday to protect people living in long-term care homes and retirement homes.

“The data show that each Omicron case infects four to eight times more individuals than the Delta variant, and it is rapidly becoming the dominant strain in Ontario,” said Kieran Health Director Moore said at a press conference.

Health Minister Christian Dube told reporters Quebec is recruiting more people to vaccinate as the country ramps up distribution of booster shots.

Sun Life Financial has halted plans to reopen offices to more employees through the end of January due to concerns about Omicron, the Toronto-based insurer said on Tuesday. That followed a similar move by Canada’s third-largest lender, Bank of Nova Scotia, on Monday.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Bill Berkrot)

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