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OTTAWA: Cases of COVID-19 in Canada have started to increase again and severity trends could also rise, health officials said on Friday (Dec 10), adding that the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus had the potential to spread very quickly.

“As we head into the winter months with a strained health system in many areas … a high degree of caution is needed to minimise spread and impact, particularly during the upcoming holiday season,” chief medical officer Theresa Tam told reporters.

Canada has recorded 87 cases of Omicron so far, all of them asymptomatic or mild. Most of the initial cases were detected in recent international travelers or their close contacts.

Tam said the variant had the potential to spread much faster than the highly transmissible Delta variant.

“The trend in average daily case counts has shifted from decline to a gradual but steady increase,” she said. “With daily new cases increasing, there is concern that national severity trends could begin to rise again.