British Columbia’s top doctor says there’s no evidence so far that indicates the Omicron COVID-19 variant has spread within the province.
That was the message from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix, who issued a statement on Friday afternoon.
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Omicron, also known as the B.1.1.529 variant, was found in South Africa on Wednesday and declared a variant of concern (VOC) on Friday. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that primary evidence suggests a higher risk of infection compared to other VOCs.
Shortly after WHO declared Omicron as a new VOC, the federal government introduced new measures at the border to prevent the spread of the variant within Canada.
The federal government is banning travellers from seven southern African countries. Travellers who are flying indirectly will need to get a negative COVID-19 test from a third country before flying to Canada.
Foreign nationals who have travelled to any of the countries in the last 14 days will be barred from entering Canada. The seven countries under the travel ban are South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Namibia.
Henry and Dix say that they support the measures taken by the federal government, adding that “immediate precautionary action is prudent.”
“At this time, there is no evidence that this variant has been introduced into British Columbia,” the two health officials said in a joint statement.
“The BC Centre for Disease Control’s public health lab has sequenced over 90,000 virus isolates in BC and will continue to use whole-genome sequencing to monitor for all variants circulating in BC, including this new VOC Omicron.”
Henry added that at this point in time, all Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccines are “highly effective and provide strong protection against all variants.”
British Columbians are advised to follow all provincial and public health orders in place, stay home when feeling unwell, wash hands frequently, and get fully vaccinated if they haven’t done so already.