As public health officials across the country narrow down how the surge in Omicron cases began, they are linking the cases to a rugby championship hosted at Queen’s University in November.
On Tuesday, B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters that there had been an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at the University of Victoria. The cases involved both Omicron and Delta variants.
At the same time, Dr. Henry said “The introduction of Omicron (was) related to a rugby tournament, which sadly has spread Omicron to university communities across the country.” The tournament was hosted between November 24th and 28th.
On the same day, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s top doctor said that “there is a possibility” the Dalhousie University’s men’s rugby team may have brought the COVID-19 variant to the province.
In response, Queen’s University issued the following statement: “The health and safety of our community is our foremost concern, and we have seen rising cases of COVID-19 within our student population. KFL&A Public Health does all contact tracing and has initiated tests with several suspected cases to confirm if any are the Omicron variant that has been identified in the KFL&A region.”
The university further added that it supports public health’s efforts to limit any spread that is identified and “recently introduced enhanced precautions to our already rigorous protocols that are in place to keep our community safe.” They also say that they suspended all varsity activities once an outbreak had been declared.
In addition to UBC, Uvic, and Queen’s, the University of Guelph, the University of Calgary, Concordia University, Dalhousie University, and the Royal Military College took part.
Locally, some outbreaks have also been linked to the Rugby championship. A rugby social hosted at the Ale House & Canteen was thought to have triggered an outbreak at the bar. A week later, KFL&A Public Health asked students to attend on the days the event was hosted to get tested immediately for COVID-19. The Ale House also announced that it would be closed until at least January 2022. KFL&A Public Health has confirmed that at least 40 people have tested positive as a result of the outbreak.
The Royal Military College has also declared an outbreak involving the Omicron variant, though public affairs would not confirm whether the outbreak is associated with any rugby players.