First case of Omicron variant confirmed in B.C.

Dr. Bonnie Henry along with health officials have announced the first case concerning the variant in the Fraser Health region


By Ashley Burgoyne

The first confirmed case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in British Columbia was announced earlier today by provincial health officials. 

Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a press briefing on Nov. 30 that the first case of the new coronavirus variant was detected in an individual in the Fraser Health region, which includes areas from Delta to Boston Bar.

The individual was confirmed to have returned from a trip to Nigeria, one of the 19 countries to have found cases of the variant to date. 

Henry said this individual is one of the 204 people who recently returned to B.C. from travels to Omicron-affected countries.

The person is isolated from the public and public health is following up with them and their contacts at this time.

Omicron is the newest discovered COVID-19 variant, first identified in South Africa. Canadian health officials have raised concerns about this variant possibly being more severe and more transmissible. 

There are now seven confirmed Omicron cases in Canada at the time of this posting. 

More updates to come

Henry said that although there hasn’t been a widespread transmission of the variant in B.C. there is still a lot about omicron that health officials don’t understand. “It will take some weeks for us to get sufficient data,” she said.

Henry said that it is inevitable there will be more cases as the variant spreads. In parts of the world where vaccination rate is low, the concerning mutation can arise and spread rapidly. She said the likelihood to be exposed to the variant heightens when travelling to countries where transmission is higher. 

Canada has now imposed new traveling protocols which require fully vaccinated air travelers arriving in Canada to be tested for COVID-19 at the airport, and they will need to be isolated until a negative result is received.

Nigeria, Egypt and Malawi have just been added to the growing list of countries temporarily banned from travel to Canada.

“We don’t yet know how many additional people will be returning travellers to B.C. from the additional three countries,” Henry said. “It is something that we’re paying attention to, we’re doing additional enhanced surveillance.”

Although information continues to come out as health officials learn more about the variant, Henry said that there will not be additional travelling restrictions for Canadian residents at the moment and it is not necessary for British Columbians to cancel their holiday travel plans. 

Taking action

Adrian Dix, the B.C. Minister of Health said local health officials are supportive of the precautionary steps the federal government is taking.

B.C. health officials remain confident that vaccination is still the “number one best tool” in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Dix said the work of booster doses is significant and positive. 

76.4 per cent of Canadians are fully vaccinated. Over 4.5 million British Columbians have had both their first and second doses, and over 400,000 have had a third or booster shot. 

“The best thing we can do is to protect ourselves and our loved ones and our communities by getting the protection that vaccines offer,” Henry said.

Tensions have risen once again around the province as cases concerning Omicron increase in numbers, people who are especially affected by the tightening travel protocols are voicing their concerns.

Second-year business administration student at Langara, Navneet Rani, said she is worried about the new variant.

The international student said her parents are planning to visit in April, and with the new enforced travelling protocols, she is worried about their travel plans.

For more COVID-19 related information and updates visit: BC Centre for Disease Control

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