B.C. reported its first case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant Tuesday.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said it was someone in Fraser Health who travelled to Nigeria.
The province will be doing full genome sequencing on all COVID-19 cases, Henry added.
“We can be confident we are not seeing widespread of this variant in B.C. yet,” she said.
“Where vaccination is low it can spread rapidly. The new variant reminds us we are in a global storm and it is not equal everywhere. There is still a lot we don’t know about the Omicron.”
The individual is now isolating and public health is following up with them and their contacts.
To date the Public Health Agency of Canada has identified 204 people in BC who are recently in affected areas.
The quarantine service have connected with all of these individuals in the past few days, and they have been sent for PCR testing and are in isolation.
“We can be confident that we are not seeing widespread transmission of this variant in BC yet. We know that these concerning mutations can arise, and where vaccination is low and parts of the world, they can spread rapidly,” Henry said.
“There is still a lot we do not yet know about the omicron variant, and it will take some weeks for us to get sufficient data to understand.”
The province does not yet know if the variant is more transmissible than other strains of the virus.
Whether it causes more severe illness is something that is also still unknown.
Public health officials and scientists also don’t know whether vaccines are less effective or people are more likely to be re-infected with the variant.
“There are some suggestions that it might be, but whether it will out-compete the delta variants that we’ve seen so far here in BC is yet to be known,” Henry said.
The National Advisory Committee of Immunization has been asked by the federal government whether the booster shots should be provided sooner.
In British Columbia, those 70 plus and those with 2 shots of AstraZeneca will be offered a booster six months after their second shot.
“We are looking at the information that’s coming around omicron and as I mentioned, it really is a bit too early to say, but within the next couple of weeks we’ll have more information on that,” Henry said.
“The UK has made a decision to move up booster doses for younger people — it will be a discussion that we will be having in the coming days and more information on that by next week.”
The latest variant, first reported last week, has led the federal government to restrict travel from countries in southern Africa, and the B.C. government to require additional testing for those who have already arrived.
The World Health Organization said Monday that the heavily mutated Omicron variant is likely to spread internationally and poses a “very high” risk of infection surges that could have “severe consequences” in some places.
Five cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant have been confirmed in Canada to date.
“Obviously, we’re watching very, very closely the situation with Omicron. We know that even though Canada has very strong border measures now — we need vaccinations to come to Canada, we need pre-departure tests, we do testing on arrival,” Trudeau told reporters as he walked into a Tuesday cabinet meeting.
“There may be more we need to do and we’ll be looking at it very carefully.”
–with files from Rachel GilmoreView link »