British Columbia

B.C. records 358 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths

B.C. health officials announced 358 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths on Tuesday.

There are 300 people in hospital with the disease, 104 of whom are in intensive care

Passengers check their tickets at Air Canada’s kiosk at international arrivals at Vancouver’s international airport (YVR) in Richmond, British Columbia. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. health officials announced 358 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths on Tuesday.

In a written statement, the provincial government said there are currently 2,889 active cases of people infected with the novel coronavirus in B.C.

A total of 300 people are in hospital, with 104 in intensive care.

Overall hospitalizations, which typically lag behind spikes and dips in new cases, are down by 13 per cent from last Tuesday, when 345 people were in hospital with the disease and about 31.1 per cent from a month ago when 436 people were in hospital.

The number of patients in intensive care is down by about 9.5 per cent from 115 a week ago and by a third from last month when 156 people were in the ICU.

The regional breakdown of new cases is as follows:

  • 107 new cases in Fraser Health, which has 1,018 total active cases.
  • 85 new cases in Interior Health, which has 552 total active cases.
  • 57 new cases in Island Health, which has 539 total active cases.
  • 56 new cases in Northern Health, which has 337 total active cases.
  • 53 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, which has 443 total active cases. 
  • There are no new cases among people who reside outside of Canada, a group which has zero total active cases.

There are a total of five active outbreaks in assisted living, long-term, and acute care facilities. The province has declared an outbreak at Abbotsford Regional Hospital over.

Acute care outbreaks include:

  • Ridge Meadows Hospital
  • St. Paul's Hospital

As of Tuesday, 91.1 per cent of those 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 87.8 per cent a second dose and 10 per cent a third dose.

When taking into account those five and older, 84.8 per cent of people in B.C. had received a first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine and 81.7 per cent a second dose.

From Nov. 22 to 28, people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 58.2 per cent of cases and from Nov. 15, they accounted for 65.9 per cent of hospitalizations, according to the province.

So far, 8.68 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including just over four million second doses.

1st case of omicron variant confirmed

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed at a Tuesday news conference that the province had detected its first case of the omicron variant.

The variant was first identified in South Africa and led to travel restrictions for countries throughout southern Africa.

Henry said the variant was found in a person residing in the Fraser Health region, who had recently returned home from travelling in Nigeria.

That person is now isolating and an additional 204 people who travelled to countries affected by the variant have also been told to isolate.

The omicron variant is notable because it has a large number of mutations that could affect its transmissibility and the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

"We can be confident that we're not seeing widespread transmission of this variant in B.C., yet," Henry said. 

At the news conference, Henry also announced that regional gathering restrictions in the Interior Health region will be removed on Tuesday night.

Additionally, the current restrictions in Northern Health will now expire on Jan. 31, 2022. Those restrictions include the closure of bars and nightclubs, an order mandating restaurants stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m., and no in-person worship services, as well as limitations on gatherings.

The restrictions in place for the Fraser East health region will remain in place.

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province had identified its first case of the omicron variant on Tuesday, and also said regional restrictions in parts of B.C. would be ending as cases were beginning to stabilize. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Starting on Tuesday, worship services in B.C. (other than in Northern Health) must be limited to 50 per cent of capacity unless all participants are fully vaccinated. If they are all fully vaccinated, 100 per cent capacity will be allowed.

Participants attending worship services must wear a mask during services, unless eating or drinking is part of the ceremony. Worship leaders may remove them if they are distancing from others.

The province has said more than 98 per cent of public service employees meet provincial proof-of-vaccination
requirements.

In a statement, the Public Service Agency says 97 per cent of the more than 38,000 government workers are fully vaccinated, 439 people are partially vaccinated and another 274 workers have asked for accommodation based on medical or other reasons.

Unvaccinated youth barred from travel

Starting Tuesday, unvaccinated travellers over the age of 12 will not be able to board a plane or passenger train in Canada even with a negative COVID-19 test.

The policy came into effect a month ago on Oct.30, but the federal government provided a transition period for unvaccinated travellers who could board as long as they produced a negative molecular COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their trip.

The new travel requirement comes into effect as Canada reacts to the emergence of the omicron variant.

While anyone coming into Canada or boarding a plane or train inside the country must be vaccinated, there are currently no quarantine measures in place except for people who have recently transited through southern Africa.

Many airlines have been doing random spot checks to ensure travellers are vaccinated, but Air Canada and West Jet say they will ask for proof from everyone boarding in Canada as of today.

With files from Courtney Dickson and the Canadian Press

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