B.C. now has five confirmed cases of Omicron variant, potentially more pending

Province of BC

Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix reported that British Columbia is now up to five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant across the Province — four more cases than last week.

While only five have been confirmed, Dr. Henry pointed out that health officials suspect there are more cases anticipated in the coming days as a number of tests are still pending.

“This is not a surprise, as once we start to look for it, it is likely we are going to find it,” noted Dr. Henry during a live press conference on Tuesday.

Dr. Henry says that British Columbians will be updated on a regular basis regarding the Omicron variant cases so as to provide residents with “an understanding of what [health officials] are seeing.”

As for the confirmed cases of the Omicron variant here in the province, Dr. Henry says three of the five were fully vaccinated — all with different immunization programs — while the other two were unvaccinated.

The cases ranged from age 18 to age 60, added Dr. Henry, and all of them have been associated with international travel at this time. The travel destinations linked with the Omicron variant cases in B.C. include Nigeria, a number of places in South Africa, Egypt and Iran.

Health officials in the province will continue to use whole-genome sequencing as a way of rapidly testing for the new variant, however, Dr. Henry suggests that wastewater surveillance will also be used to monitor how much of certain variants are being detected in different parts of the province.

While countries around the globe continue to emphasize a concern for the Omicron Variant, Health Minister Dix suggests that the focus should continue to be on the Delta variant instead because it continues to have a “profound impact” on people who are not vaccinated in the province.

Dix said the Delta variant is disproportionately affecting those who haven’t been vaccinated, including most of the more than 150 people who have been moved from the Northern Health authority to southern hospitals.

The transfers are weighing down the healthcare system because many of those people are in critical condition and require teams of healthcare workers at every stage of their transport, Dix said during a separate news conference announcing the opening of a new urgent primary care centre in Cranbrook.

“We don’t need Omicron to tell us to be cautious over Christmas. We just need to look at the Delta variant, which is here now and has a profound effect on all of us,” he said Monday. “This is a time when you should be concerned with the vaccination status of those around you and ensure that you stay safe right now.”

More than 50 per cent of people over 70 have received their booster shots, which equates to about 500,000 doses, the minister said.

Nearly 40 per cent of children aged five to 11 have been registered for their first vaccine and about 84 per cent of those who have registered have received an invitation to book a shot.

During the live press conference, Dr. Henry added a word of encouragement to British Columbians who may be feeling anxious about the new variant, outlining that the systems are in place to overcome it.

“I know there has been a lot of commentary about the Omicron and what does this mean, and there are many things that we still don’t know,” said Dr. Henry. “This is our latest variant of concern and it seems like we are on this never-ending uncertainty, which can create a level of anxiety…and we’ve been living with this uncertainty for a long time and it is yet another hill in a very, very long journey. If you are feeling anxious or depressed or hopeless, I encourage to focus on what is happening now — recognizing that we do know how to get through this and that we have been through this before.”

Dr. Henry continued to suggest that we have the tools and the knowledge to keep ourselves safe during the emergence of this new COVID-19 variant and emphasizes that we will be able to get through this again.

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