Ontario's chief medical officer of health says the province is investigating two potential cases of a new COVID-19 variant in Hamilton.
Dr. Kieran Moore said, during a Monday news conference, the two omicron cases are awaiting whole genome sequencing and Hamilton public health said the results should be ready in "the coming days."
Moore said Hamilton's public health unit is "doing active case and tracing management."
Hamilton public health would not answer questions about the two potential cases, pointing to a media briefing at 3 p.m. Monday, but issued a media release with more information.
Public health said the two Hamilton residents recently returned from travelling to South Africa. Omicron, the new variant, was detected in South Africa and was linked to a spike in cases there but didn't necessarily originate in the region.
Public health also said the two residents are self-isolating.
This comes as Canada has confirmed two cases in Ottawa and is investigating two more potential cases in the capital city. The country also barred all foreign nationals who have travelled through South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini or Mozambique in the last 14 days from entering Canada.
Hamilton public health said anyone who was in those countries within 14 days before arriving in Hamilton should self-isolate from people in their household and get a COVID-19 test. The people they live with should also self-isolate and get tested.
More cases expected to pop up in Ontario
Moore said he "would not be surprised if we find more in Ontario" and added there are still many unanswered questions about the variant.
"We need to understand if this is a virulent infection, if it makes people significantly sick or leads them to hospitalization. We really don't have that information yet," he said.
The province said in a media release about the variant the best defence is "stopping it at our border" and said Ontario is prepared and ready to respond" to the omicron variant.
Ontario's seven-day average rose to 784, its highest point since June 6.
Ontario: New daily cases of COVID-19
Expert says public shouldn't panic
Lori Burrows, a McMaster University biochemistry professor and Degroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research's interim director, said the public shouldn't panic because scientists are still determining how dangerous omicron is and how much protection current vaccines can offer.
"People shouldn't panic until there is time for those tests to be done," she said.
That said, Burrows said it looks like the variant is better at infecting people compared to the delta variant or the original COVID-19 variant.
"This omicron variant is replacing the delta variant, which already replaced the alpha variant, which is the previous one," she said.
"When one virus or variant replaces another, it implies it is better at infecting humans and so it becomes the dominant strain."
Burrows said it's important for people to continue to follow public health measure in place and get vaccinated. She also said it's important Canada donates vaccines to countries that don't have the same access to them.
Hamilton COVID-19 trends still on lower end
Hamilton's seven-day average of new cases is at 21, according to public health data.
Comparatively, Wave 1's peak was 159, Wave 2's was 200 and Wave 3's was 94.
There are 158 active cases in the city and the city has eight active outbreaks.
Data shows 83.3 per cent of people who can get vaccinated are fully vaccinated.
There have been 419 deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020.
More to come.