Many unknowns surround new COVID-19 variant, including its threat level: Dr. Gandhi

The Omicron variant has created a realm of concern across the province, but the former president of the Ontario Medical Association believes it will be a few weeks before some hard facts are known about this latest COVID-19 variant.

Dr. Sohail Gandhi says that according to medical literature, all variants of COVID-19 have something called a spike protein on them, which some refer to as a key "that unlocks the door that allows it to enter your cells."

Dr. Gandhi says one lingering question is whether the antibodies developed by the vaccines would "attack the spike protein or attack that key and damage it."

He says the second question is how much damage the variant would do if it got into one's cells.

Over the weekend, cases of the latest variant were confirmed in Ontario after two people from Ottawa landed in Montreal following a trip to Nigeria.

Dr. Gandhi says banning travel to South Africa is the right move to buy more time to assess the threat from the variant, adding it's better to err on the side of caution.

"What we're doing is preventing more cases from coming in, which delays the spread of the Omicron variant in our province, which gives us the 10 to 14 days, hopefully, that we need to really sort of get a handle on this particular variant," he says.

Dr. Gandhi says it's too soon to know if holiday travel plans need to be cancelled. "For now, I wouldn't cancel anything, but I would at least have a backup available."

"We're in a very fluid situation. Things are changing by the hour, if not by the minute," he cautions.