BC health officials confirm first case of COVID-19 Omicron variant
British Columbia’s first case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant has been confirmed.
The announcement was made on Tuesday afternoon during a press conference with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix.
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Henry says that the person is a resident of the Fraser Health Authority who recently returned from travel in Nigeria. They are isolating, and public health is following up with them and their contacts.
Additionally, 204 people in British Columbia have been identified as having recently been in “affected areas.” They have been sent for PCR testing and are in isolation.
“We can be confident that we are not seeing widespread transmission of this variant in BC yet,” Henry says. “We know that these concerning mutations can arise and where vaccination is low in parts of the world, they can spread rapidly.
She added that at this point in time, there’s still a lot that health officials don’t know about the Omicron variant, and that it will take time before they can learn more about it. It’s unclear whether COVID-19 vaccines are less effective, whether it causes more severe illness, and whether Omicron is more transmissible than other variants.
“There are some suggestions that it might be [more transmissible],” Henry says. “But whether it will out-compete the Delta variants that we’ve seen so far in BC has yet to be known.”
New travel restrictions for air travellers coming to Canada
Earlier today, Canadian officials announced new travel restrictions Tuesday to combat the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
All air travellers coming to Canada will be tested for COVID-19 at the airport where they land, whether they’re vaccinated or not. They will need to self-isolate until the results come back.
This applies to all international arrivals except those coming from the US.
Many Canadians will be able to quarantine at home while waiting for test results, but people without a safe place to isolate will be sent to a quarantine hotel. In addition, Canadian citizens and permanent residents coming back from on of the 10 African countries with enhanced border measures will need to quarantine in hotels.
The government is also evaluating whether to extend testing and quarantine measure to all land travellers, including those from the US.
Revised mask and capacity rules in BC
On the heels of the first case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant being detected in the province, BC health officials have outlined some revisions to current restrictions and health orders.
Under the events and gathering orders, worship services will now be limited to 50% capacity across the province unless all participants are vaccinated, in which case 100% capacity is still okay.
Anyone attending a worship service must also remain masked, which also applies to choirs. Masks can be removed for the purposes of eating, drinking or to allow for ceremony activities. Masks can also be removed if distancing is in place.
Northern Health has also revised its current health orders, which will have an expiry date of January 31, 2022.