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COVID-19 live updates: 2 cases of omicron confirmed in Canada, officials say

ABC News logo ABC News 11/28/2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.1 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 776,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Just 59.1% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Latest Developments

Nov 28, 5:14 PM

2 cases of omicron confirmed in Canada, officials say

Two cases of the new variant omicron have been confirmed in Ontario, Canada, government officials announced Sunday.

"Today, the province of Ontario has confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria. Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management and the patients are in isolation," Christine Elliott, deputy premier and minister of health, and Dr. Kieran Moore, chief medical officer of health, said in a statement.

Nov 28, 2:57 PM

South Africa will not impose further restrictions after omicron COVID variant detected

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed his nation on Sunday following the detection of the omicron COVID variant and said the country's National Coronavirus Command Council met Saturday to consider the recent rise in infections and the possible impact of the omicron variant. They have decided not to impose further restrictions at this stage.

"We considered the fact that when we encountered previous waves of infection, vaccines were not widely available and far fewer people were vaccinated," Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa said they will closely monitor infection rates and hospitalization over the coming days and will review the situation in another week.

Only 23.66% of South Africa's population is fully vaccinated against COVID, according to the Africa CDC.

Nov 28, 12:51 PM

Biden to receive in-person briefing on omicron variant Sunday

President Joe Biden, who is returning to the White House Sunday afternoon, will be briefed in person by his COVID-19 response team and Dr. Anthony Fauci for an update on the omicron variant.

This is Biden's third briefing on omicron since Friday.

"This afternoon, the president will have an in-person briefing with members of his COVID-19 response team and Chief Medical Advisor to the President Dr. Fauci to provide an update on the omicron variant and the administration’s response," a White House official told ABC News.

-ABC News' Justin Gomez

Nov 28, 12:16 PM

Omicron symptoms 'mild', says South African doctor who spotted variant

The symptoms from the omicron COVID-19 variant are mild, according to the South African doctor who spotted the variant.

"Looking at the mildness of the (omicron) symptoms that we are seeing, currently, there's no reason for panicking as we don't see severely ill patients," Dr. Angelique Coetzee, who is the Chair of the South African Medical Association, told Reuters. "The hype that's been created currently out there in the media and worldwide doesn't correlate with the clinical picture. And it doesn't warrant to just cut us off from any traveling and ban South Africa, as if we are the variants in the whole process, it should not be like that."

A healthcare worker collects a swab from a passenger for a PCR test against the Covid-29 before traveling to Uganda, amidst the spread of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nov. 28, 2021. © Sumaya Hisham/Reuters A healthcare worker collects a swab from a passenger for a PCR test against the Covid-29 before traveling to Uganda, amidst the spread of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nov. 28, 2021.

Coetzee said the most predominant complaints from those who have tested positive omicron are severe fatigue for a couple of days, as well as headaches and body aches.

-ABC News' Clark Bentson

Nov 28, 11:26 AM

Israel detects omicron COVID case, WHO says borders should remain open

Israel's Health Ministry reports on Sunday that it has detected one case of the omicron variant in a person that traveled to Tel Aviv from Malawi and then on Nov. 22, traveled from Tel Aviv to Eilat on a bus. They are now asking for all of those bus passengers to self-quarantine and be tested.

Foreign nationals will not be allowed entry to Israel for two weeks, beginning Monday, Nov. 29.

This decision was made by the Israeli cabinet in a meeting held Saturday night. The cabinet discussed how best to go forward in light of the discovery of the new COVID variant.

However, the World Health Organization released a statement on Sunday saying it stands with African nations and call for borders to remain open.

"The speed and transparency of the South African and Botswana governments in informing the world of the new variant is to be commended. WHO stands with African countries which had the courage to boldly share life-saving public health information, helping protect the world against the spread of COVID-19," Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said in a statement Sunday.

-ABC News' Bruno Nota

Nov 28, 9:53 AM

US must prepare for omicron variant, Fauci says

While the new omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has not yet been detected in the United States, it will "inevitably" arrive, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday.

"We all know when you have a virus that has already gone to multiple countries, inevitably it will be here," Fauci told ABC's "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos. "The question is, will be prepared for it?

-ABC News' Bill Hutchinson

Nov 28, 9:04 AM

Pfizer and Moderna expect to be able to develop 'tailor-made vaccine' should emerging variant evade existing vaccines

As concerns grow with the omicron COVID-19 variant, two of the world's major coronavirus vaccine makers said they'll be able to develop a vaccine to combat the new variant.

Pfizer/BioNTech said that if a "vaccine-escape variant emerges," they "expect to be able to develop and produce a tailor-made vaccine against that variant in approximately 100 days, subject to regulatory approval."

"Pfizer and BioNTech are remaining vigilant, and we are constantly conducting surveillance efforts focused on monitoring for emerging variants that potentially escape protection from our vaccine," the company said in a statement to ABC News.

Similarly, Moderna's Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton told the BBC's Andrew Marr on Sunday that they've mobilized hundreds of employees starting on Thanksgiving and expect to know the ability of the current vaccine to provide protection against the new variant "in the next couple of weeks."

 "If we have to make a brand-new vaccine, I think that's going to be early 2022 before that's really going to be available in large quantity," he told the BBC.

-ABC News' Ahmad Hemingway

Nov 27, 11:02 PM

Abbott 'confident' its tests can detect omicron variant

As countries around the world prepare for the spread of the omicron variant, one of the U.S.'s largest manufacturers of COVID-19 tests says it is "confident" its products will detect the new strain.

"Abbott has been intently monitoring the mutations of COVID-19 so we can ensure our tests can detect them," Abbott Laboratories said in a statement Saturday night. "We have already conducted an assessment of the Omicron variant and we're confident our rapid and PCR tests can detect the virus. While the Omicron variant contains mutations to the spike protein, Abbott's rapid and PCR tests do not rely on the spike proteins to detect the virus."

Boxes of BinaxNow home COVID-19 tests made by Abbott are shown for sale Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, at a CVS store in Lakewood, Wash., south of Seattle. © Ted S. Warren/AP, FILE Boxes of BinaxNow home COVID-19 tests made by Abbott are shown for sale Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, at a CVS store in Lakewood, Wash., south of Seattle.

Abbott said both its ID NOW tests, used by medical professionals, and BinaxNOW tests, sold for at-home use, have been shown to detect the virus.

The company is currently manufacturing 100 million tests a month for use worldwide. The U.S. government is among those to have purchased the tests, with President Joe Biden announcing in late September that millions of dollars worth of tests would be purchased.

The omicron strain, first detected in southern Africa, has now been identified in several European countries. It was declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization on Friday.

Nov 27, 6:01 PM

Israel to close borders for 2 weeks

Israel has become the latest country to institute a travel ban due to the newly emerged omicron variant -- and it's going a step further than other countries.

The country announced Saturday it will be closing its borders to all foreign travelers -- not just those from southern Africa -- for two weeks starting at 12:01 a.m. Monday, the government said. Unvaccinated Israelis who return from overseas will be forced to take a PCR test upon landing and enter home isolation. They will receive a second PCR test on the third day of isolation and be allowed to resume their normal activities if negative.

Israelis returning to the country from certain high-risk countries will be forced to isolate at a hotel until receiving two negative tests.

The country said plans instituted last week to deal with Hanukkah celebrations, including limits on the size of gatherings, will remain unchanged. Hanukkah begins on Sunday.

-ABC News' Joshua Hoyos

Nov 27, 3:35 PM

South Africa says it's being 'punished'

South Africa has complained it is being punished for discovering the new variant


A statement by the South African International Relations & Cooperation Department criticized the travel bans and said the bans were "akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker."

"Excellent science should be applauded and not punished. The global community needs collaboration and partnerships in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic," the statement from the South African goverment also read.

"A combination of South Africa’s capacity to test and it’s ramped-up vaccination programme, backed up by world class scientific community, should give our global partners the comfort that we are doing as well as they are in managing the pandemic. South Africa follows and enforces globally recognised COVID-19 health protocols on travel. No infected individuals are permitted to leave the country," the statement continued.

South Africa's Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor said: "Whilst we respect the right of all countries to take the necessary precautionary measures to protect their citizens, we need to remember that this pandemic requires collaboration and sharing of expertise. Our immediate concern is the damage that these restrictions are causing to families, the travel and tourism industries and business."

South Africa has already started engaging countries that have imposed travel bans with the view to persuade them to reconsider.

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© Jerome Delay/AP

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