B.C. won’t add Omicron-specific restrictions, but people arriving from southern Africa will need PCR test

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The BC government said on Monday it would not impose specific restrictions to manage the possible arrival of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

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The latest version, first reported last week, has prompted 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 .

In the last few days, around 900 to 1,000 passengers have arrived in Canada from southern Africa. Of these, 204 have arrived in BC.

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“We are doing what we need to do, which is PCR testing of all the people who have returned from African countries,” Health Minister Adrian Dix told reporters.

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“The sample genome of every passenger who has tested positive has been sequenced.”

The World Health Organization said on Monday that the heavily mutated Omicron variant has the potential to spread internationally and poses a “very high” risk of developing infections that could have “serious consequences” in some places.

On Monday, Ontario’s top doctor said two passengers identified as Canada’s first Omicron cases entered the country at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport, then continued on to Ottawa.

That province is looking at four other cases – two in Ottawa and two in Hamilton – as possible examples of the variant. Meanwhile, Quebec also reported its first case on Monday.

Scientists are still trying to understand the transmission of the variant and whether vaccines will work to prevent it.

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Asked whether BC would consider specific restrictions to slow Omicron’s potential spread, Dix said the province has other concerns.

“The main concern remains, as we focus on a variety of concerns in general, on activities that happen during Christmas and New Years and (that) everyone stays safe,” he said. “There is no specific response to the variant concern as of now in terms of measures. ,

The province is also not considering changes to its booster shot program. BC has already given more than 400,000 shots, and 40 percent of people over the age of 70 have received it.

“We need to continue with the actions we have taken. Following public health orders. Wearing masks in public indoor places. To get your vaccine, no matter your age, it is your turn,” the minister said. “Especially in this time we need to be cautious.”

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– With a file from Craig Lord, Annabelle Olivier and Reuters

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