Dr. Rodney Russell.

On December 3rd, 2021, Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) released a memo titled “Monitoring impacts of Omicron variant.” MUN stated that they are monitoring the emergence of the new COVID-19 variant known as the Omicron variant and that information on it is evolving.

A professor of virology and immunology in MUN’s Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Rod Russell, continues to support, inform and share guidance with the university to help with the planning process.

Dr. Russell states, “This variant has mutations in common with all four previous variants of concern, and this could put us in a situation where we have a virus that can spread faster than Delta, but may also be less manageable by currently-approved vaccines,”

However, Dr. Russell states the vaccines will provide some immunity against any variant despite potential immune evasion.

MUN has the following information for members of the university community:

Impact of Omicron

Information is still limited and more is anticipated in the coming days and weeks, however, as Dr. Russell stated, current vaccines remain critical to reducing severe disease. Additionally, it is important to follow COVID-19 safety controls such as masks, hygiene practices, staying home when sick, and physical distancing where possible. Now that vaccines are available for children who are 5-11 years old, it is important to get them vaccinated as soon as possible. This supports the health and well-being of our community.

Holiday travel

As the holiday season approaches many of us will be travelling. As countries around the world are putting travel and other restrictions in place in light of this new variant, it is important people are aware restrictions can be implemented with little or no advance warning and anyone planning to travel should be prepared for the risk of onward travel being delayed or cancelled. Ensure you reconfirm your itinerary, remain flexible, have appropriate contingency plans in place and check the latest restrictions for your destination and monitor Canadian and provincial regulations.

Further requirements to quarantine or test may also be implemented by officials, regardless of vaccination status with the emergence of Omicron. If you are travelling for Memorial-related activities, please feel free to reach out to the OCRO and who can provide you the latest advice, resources and support to ensure you have the most current information.

Winter 2022 planning

We are monitoring the situation, and will follow the advice of our partners at Public Health. Memorial is prepared if the situation changes and the risk level increases. The university is optimistic winter 2022 will continue as planned based on the low provincial epidemiology and very high vaccination rates. We may see provincial and federal changes in requirements for isolation and testing for entering the province and/or country.

Matt Barter is a fourth-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.


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