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A Toronto-area health unit has confirmed a case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, the fifth known case confirmed in the province.

The Durham Region Health Department says the person who tested positive is a close contact of a traveller who recently returned from a southern African country that Canada has deemed high-risk for the variant.

The local health department says it’s also monitoring other COVID-19 cases under investigation because of recent travel history, but its news release didn’t say how many are being investigated.

Dr. Robert Kyle, medical officer of health for the region, says the new variant is no reason for alarm but people should stay vigilant and follow public health rules.

Four Omicron cases have also been found in Ottawa, and other cases have been confirmed in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec.

The World Health Organization has named Omicron a variant of concern and many countries have implemented travel measures to contain it, though not much is yet known about its characteristics.

Meanwhile, Ontario is reporting 959 new COVID-19 cases and eight deaths from the virus today.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 469 new cases are in people not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 61 people have an unknown vaccination status.

The province says 155 people are in intensive care due to COVID-related critical illness, including 85 people on ventilators.

There were four patients from Saskatchewan in Ontario hospitals as of Wednesday, including three people in intensive care.

The province says 87 per cent of residents aged 12 and older have both shots of a COVID-19 vaccine and 90 per cent of people have at least one.

An announcement is expected later today on the province’s plan to expand booster dose eligibility.

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