B.C. health officer asks residents to change holiday plans if feeling unwell

B.C. health officer asks residents to change holiday plans if feeling unwell

VICTORIA — British Columbia has hit its COVID-19 testing capacity as the provincial health officer asked residents Friday to not get tested unless they have symptoms.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province administered 20,000 COVID-19 PCR tests on Thursday as it deals with long lines and delays at testing sites across the province.

Part of the rise in testing demand has come as people worry about contracting the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“Omicron is different,” she said. “In a sense, we’re in a different game, a different pandemic now.”

Henry said she expects Omicron to become the dominant COVID-19 variant in B.C. by next week.

She said the province’s contract tracing program can’t keep up with the variant, which can spread as quickly in two days as it took the original strain to spread in seven.

“It can spread with very small amounts of virus. It replicates quickly,” she said. “The time between exposure and getting sick yourself and passing it on to someone else is very small.”

B.C. reported 2,441 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, surpassing a previous record for the number of infections set Thursday. The province had 10,415 active cases. The province also reported four additional deaths, for a total of 2,414 since the pandemic began.

Henry urged people to not get tested unless they need to. Residents should not get tested to justify meeting up with family members or travelling during the winter holidays, she added.

If someone develops symptoms, then they need to adjust holiday plans and self-isolate, she said.

As a result of hitting the testing capacity, Henry said health staff are prioritizing those most at risk and giving take-home antigen tests to younger people at less risk.

She also reiterated that gyms and other businesses ordered to close must remain shuttered.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province expects to give out 147,371 vaccinations from Dec. 22 to Jan. 2.

He said 907,094 third doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered and 120,844 children from the ages of five to 11 have received their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine designed specifically for them.

Dix added that 20 per cent of the eligible population has received a third dose of a vaccine.

— By Nick Wells in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 24, 2021.

The Canadian Press