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COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

State of play: The two people in Canada who tested positive had recently traveled from Nigeria, per the statement from Ottawa Public Health.

  • France's Ministry of Health announced in a statement on Sunday evening that it has detected eight possible cases of the variant. Testing is underway to confirm their diagnosis.
  • Botswana's Health Minister Edwin Dikoloti announced Sunday that the country has identified 15 more cases of the Omicron variant, Reuters reports.
  • Health officials in Australia announced on Sunday that they detected two cases of the variant in travelers from southern Africa, the first such cases identified on the continent.
  • Both people who tested positive were asymptomatic and fully vaccinated, Australian health officials said in a statement.
  • The Netherlands also reported that they had identified cases of the variant among 13 passengers who arrived from southern Africa, per the National Institute for Health.

The big picture: Many countries have begun restricting or banning travel from nations in southern Africa in an effort to curb the spread of the variant.

  • Australia imposed new security measures just a day before the variant was identified, barring anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident from entering after having traveled to south African countries.
  • The Netherlands have also imposed restrictions on travel to and from southern Africa, and the country has also announced other measures such as an evening lockdown, according to the New York Times.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government on Monday joined Israel and Morocco in closing its borders to all foreign visitors as a precaution against the Omicron variant, per the NYT.

Go deeper:

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy.
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker
Jan 15, 2022 - Sports

Australian appeals court to hear Novak Djokovic’s case on Sunday

Novak Djokovic plays a forehand during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Jan. 13 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Graham Denholm via Getty Images

An Australian appeals court will hear arguments in Novak Djokovic's visa cancellation case on Sunday.

Why it matters: The unvaccinated tennis player faces possible deportation from Australia after officials revoked his visa for a second time on Friday, citing public health interests. He is set to play his first match in the Australian Open on Sunday.

10 mins ago - World

North Korea launches 4th suspected missile test this month

A news broadcast in Seoul, South Korea, of an apparent North Korean missile test on Monday morning local time. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea's military fired "two suspected short-range ballistic missiles" eastward from Pyongyang on Monday morning local time, per South Korean and Japanese officials.

Why it matters: The fourth such launch since Jan. 5 comes days after North Korea's military warned of "stronger" action if the U.S. moved to have more sanctions imposed on the country.

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