Ontario Premier Doug Ford puts his mask back on after speaking during a news conference at Queen’s Park in Toronto, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. Public health responses to protect against the Omicron variant vary across Canada, even as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the country’s two most populous provinces. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Ontario Premier Doug Ford puts his mask back on after speaking during a news conference at Queen’s Park in Toronto, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. Public health responses to protect against the Omicron variant vary across Canada, even as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the country’s two most populous provinces. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Governments in Canada preparing for Omicron COVID-19 variant

Omicron has doubling time of about two days

Governments across Canada are bracing for the possible effects of the Omicron variant as COVID-19 case numbers rise sharply in some provinces and around the world.

As Ontario reported 1,808 new cases Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford announced that starting Monday all adults will be eligible for booster shots, provided it has been at least three months since their second dose.

Quebec Premier François Legault said his government may reconsider easing indoor gathering limits next Thursday to 20 people from 10 because of rising COVID-19 cases, as another 2,386 infections were reported in his province.

Omicron has now reached all four Atlantic provinces, as Newfoundland and Labrador confirmed its first case of the highly contagious variant.

In Alberta, more than 500,000 rapid antigen test kits will be made available for free at select health-care sites and pharmacies starting Friday, while anyone 50 and older and all health-care workers who had their second COVID-19 shot six months ago or more can book a booster.

Early data suggests Omicron is more transmissible than the currently dominant Delta variant, with a doubling time of about two days.

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province is considering further public health orders on public and private gatherings, with an announcement expected next week.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba said they plan to maintain current public health restrictions for now.

Hours after the federal government reinstated a travel advisory against non-essential travel outside the country, Defence Minister Anita Anand tweeted she postponed a trip to Washington, D.C. after one of her staff tested positive for COVID 19.

Anand said she has received two negative test results since then, but is self-isolating and met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin virtually out of an abundance of caution.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 16, 2021.

COVID-19