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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: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court grants stay for indoor mask mandate — Neil Young demands Spotify take down music over vaccine misinformation — Biden admin withdraws temporary vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. 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.

Fed: Rate hikes "will soon be appropriate"

The Federal Reserve's headquarters building. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Federal Reserve officials expect "it will soon be appropriate" to raise the central bank's main target interest rate, setting the stage for a rate hike at its next meeting in mid-March.

Driving the news: In a statement following a two-day meeting published Wednesday afternoon, however, the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee teed up its next move without taking new action.

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