Health officials urge anyone with COVID symptoms to stay home during holidays

Province of British Columbia

This holiday season, health officials say the province is at its capacity to test, so anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should isolate and not go to a holiday gathering.

“Our testing centres are at their maximum capacity. We did over 20,000 PCR tests yesterday and that’s the maximum that we can do,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry in Friday’s health briefing.

“So, I want to be very clear, do not go to a testing centre unless you have symptoms,” she said.

With the Omicron variant spreading more easily, according to Henry, the province is now dealing with its worst surge of COVID-19 yet.

Both the province and Island Health broke daily case records on Thursday. B.C. broke another record on Friday with health officials reporting 2,441 new cases of COVID-19 across the entire province.

It marks the fourth day in a row that health officials reported a record number of daily cases in British Columbia.

Before this week, the highest daily total was 1,293 cases, reported back in April.

“What we are seeing across this country and across the globe is that Omicron is different. It is spreading in a way that is very different from previous variants,” Henry said.

“In one sense, we’re in a different game, a different pandemic now,” she continued.

She said the province will not be able to keep up with contact tracing due to the speed and surge in cases.

“It’s the speed of transmission at this point also means that our contact tracing cannot keep up,” she said.

“We can keep up with people who have a test … but we cannot find contacts and notice people within two to three days. It often takes a little bit longer,” she added.

She also said anyone with symptoms, even if they’re mild, should isolate and assume it’s COVID.

“Given the rate of transmission that we are seeing, if you have any symptoms, you must assume you have COVID and take measures to avoid passing it on,” Henry said.

“You need to take precautions and stay away from others, particularly people who may be at-risk,” she added.

The province urges people not to seek testing for travel purposes and other non-essential reasons as testing should be available to health-care workers who need negative tests to work and those most at-risk, including older people, those who are immunocompromised and younger children.

“No matter how we celebrate the holidays, the greatest gift we can give this year is to protect the people we love and care about by slowing the spread of Omicron,” said B.C.’s minister of health Adrian Dix.

He also said everyone needs to follow public health guidance to prevent the spread of the virus.

“It’s up to us to keep our emergency rooms and hospitals from being overwhelmed. We need to adhere to public health orders. We need to follow the latest public health guidance, we need to use our COVID sense,” he said.

In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, the province implemented new restrictions this week that will remain in effect until at least Jan. 18.

Currently, about 20 per cent of the province’s eligible population has received their booster shot, according to Dix.

He urges anyone who has received an invitation to book their appointment as soon as possible.

Tahmina AzizTahmina Aziz

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