British Columbia

Omicron variant upending holiday plans, health restrictions being considered, B.C. health minister says

Dramatically rising case counts of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in Ontario, Quebec and around the world has British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix warning this is a "time to exercise caution."

Premier John Horgan also urging people to rethink holiday travel plans

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province supports the federal government advising Canadians against international travel over the holiday season. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Dramatically rising case counts of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in Ontario, Quebec and around the world has British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix warning this is a "time to exercise caution."

B.C. supports the federal government's call to advise Canadians against international travel over the holiday season due to the rising threat of the Omicron variant, Dix said Wednesday.

"I think that's good advice to take," he said at a news conference. "There will be other trips."

Premier John Horgan said in a statement the highly transmissible Omicron variant has created conditions where people should not take chances with international travel.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos is asking Canadians with plans to travel abroad to cancel their trips as the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreads worldwide. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

"While this advice undoubtedly disrupts many holiday plans, a fast-changing and unpredictable situation demands we act with caution and prudence," he said. "Avoid non-essential travel and follow public health guidelines. Plan your vaccinations and booster shots."

Travel within Canada over the holidays should also be reconsidered despite the disappointment of possibly not gathering with family and loved ones, said Dix.

"The message is, if you're not vaccinated, definitely don't travel," he said.

B.C. is also considering implementing further public health orders on large and small public and private gatherings in an effort to limit the spread of the highly transmissible variant, Dix said.

A COVID-19 vaccination clinic is pictured at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Possibly expanding public health orders that place limits on gatherings, which could include Vancouver Canucks games and informal private parties, may come early next week, he said.

Ontario introduced 50 per cent capacity limits at large sporting events, including on games played by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

But Dix said B.C. will not follow Ontario when it comes to providing vaccine booster shots immediately to all residents who are 18 years and older.

He said B.C.'s COVID-19 booster program is based on scientific evidence that concludes most  people are offered the best protection receiving a third dose six to eight months after the second shot.

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