At a Dec. 24 news conference, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry called the Omicron variant a ‘game changer’.
“Omicron is different, we’re in a different game, a different pandemic now,” she said.
Henry shared that Omicron’s incubation period is reduced from the usual average of five to seven days down to two or three days. Omicron sits in the upper portion of the respiratory tract, which makes it even more infectious with aerosolized transmission.
The highly infectious variant has strained B.C.’s testing capacity. Henry advised only those with symptoms who need a PCR test to go to testing centres. B.C. can administer as many as 20,000 PCR tests a day and will be supplementing with rapid tests where available. Due to the limited capacity and supply of tests, rapid tests will not be used for people who are asymptomatic.
Even with the limited testing capacity, B.C. has been setting record daily case counts. On Thursday (Dec. 23), the province recorded 2,046 new cases of COVID-19 and one death.
“If you have any symptoms, you must assume you have COVID and take measures to avoid passing it on,” Henry said.
People with symptoms should self-isolate for at least 10 days. Fully vaccinated people, particularly young people, are not advised to get tested. Henry said the priority for PCR tests is for people who “need to know” whether they’re infected such as health care workers.
Henry once again cautioned against having large holiday gatherings and pleaded with British Columbians to keep their celebrations small. She added that there are still many unknowns with Omicron, however, the variant has shown it can infect those who are double vaccinated and reinfect those who have already had COVID-19.
B.C. is racing to get booster shots to the public. To date, the province has administered 807,094 booster doses and is working to bring mass vaccination clinics back online. Starting in January, the province estimates booster capacity will increase by 62 per cent.
The province will provide written updates on case counts, vaccination data and preliminary case counts on Dec. 27 and 28. Regular case counts and media availability will resume on Dec. 28.
Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.