Health Minister Adrian Dix urged British Columbians to heed newly announced federal travel advice as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly across the world.
Dix’s comments on Wednesday (Dec. 15) afternoon come several hours after federal officials announced a new non-essential travel advisory against international trips over the holiday season due to the Omicron variant. As of Tuesday, B.C. had reported a total of 44 cases of the new variant.
He also noted that Omicron cases are higher in Ontario and Quebec than in B.C., calling on British Columbians to be careful travelling out of province. Those who remain unvaccinated, Dix added, should not travel at all.
He acknowledged that the news is “immensely disappointing” to a province that is entering its second COVID-tinged holiday season.
A rapid testing strategy will be announced next Tuesday, the health minister said, following on the federal announcement that 180 million tests would be distributed to the provinces at no cost. However, the rollout of rapid tests will likely not begin until January.
While B.C. has reported dozens of Omicron cases, with more likely to be undetected in the community, Dix said that the Delta variant remains the culprit behind the majority of the province’s COVID infections.
The province’s daily case counts have increase slightly in recent days, with 519 reported Tuesday and 584 reported Wednesday. Seven people have died, bringing the pandemic’s death toll in B.C. to 2,393.
There are 193 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 77 of whom are in ICU. The rest of the 3,458 test positive cases are recovering at home. About 77,857 children ages five to 11, or 22 per cent of that age group, have received their first dose.
Dix said that recent cases have largely not been linked to organized events that require proof of vaccination to attend but rather to smaller, informal gatherings. The health minister urged British Columbians to avoid gatherings where the vaccination status of attendees is unknown and said that the province is considering making changes to capacity limits and the B.C. vaccine card.