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Five Omicron cases detected in B.C., all related to travel, no hospitalizations

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A number of other cases are suspected to be the new variant, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday. GOVERNMENT OF B.C.

Five cases of the Omicron variant of COVID‑19 have been detected in B.C. and more cases are likely to test positive, says provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

All of the Omicron-positive cases have been asymptomatic or mild, said Henry. “Nobody’s been hospitalized, there’s been no deaths, and they’ve been picked up in a variety of ways.”

The province’s first case of the newest COVID-19 variant was announced last week, and four more were detected over the weekend. Three of the cases are in Vancouver Coastal Health and two are in Fraser Health region.

“We have a number of others that are suspect that are likely to turn out to be this new variant as well,” Henry said Tuesday

Three of the people who tested positive for the variant were vaccinated and two were unvaccinated. Those infected ranged in age from 18 to 60.

All five were associated with international travel to places such as Nigeria, Egypt, a number of countries in southern Africa and Iran, said Henry.

Whole genome sequencing will continue to be used on all positive samples of COVID-19 to screen for variants, she said.

“We’ve been building up our whole genome sequencing program from the very beginning of this pandemic,” said Henry. “It has enabled us to understand how this virus has changed over the course of the pandemic here in British Columbia, so we’ll continue to do that.”

Omicron follows four other variants of concern: Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said while COVID-19 daily case counts have dropped — on Monday, 284 new cases were reported, down from 814 on Sept. 8 — “we absolutely cannot drop our guard.”

“We need to stay focused also on the here and now,” said Dix, “and what’s here in B.C. right now is the Delta variant that seizes upon the unvaccinated.”

Last week, Henry said 99.6 per cent of cases in B.C. remain the Delta strains AY 25 and AY 27, with a smattering of AY 4.2 — dubbed the Delta variant plus.

Dix urged people who are unvaccinated to get immunized, those who have been vaccinated to get booster shots when invited to do so, and parents to ensure their children are vaccinated.

Omicron was first publicly identified in South Africa after a spike in infections there. Cases have been reported in countries around the world.

Public health officials have said COVID vaccines remain the best defence against all variants, along with other measures, including wearing masks indoors.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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• To get the COVID-19 vaccine, go to the Get Vaccinated website (getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca) or call 1-833-838-2323.