Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, have issued the following statement regarding a new variant of concern (VOC), Omicron:

“We support the measures taken today by the federal government in response to the newly identified variant of concern, Omicron. We do not yet know the impact this new VOC will have on transmission or of severity of illness, but taking this immediate precautionary action is prudent. We will continue to closely monitor developments around the world.

“At this time, there is no evidence that this variant has been introduced into British Columbia. The BC Centre for Disease Control’s public health lab has sequenced over 90,000 virus isolates in B.C. and will continue to use whole genome sequencing to monitor for all variants circulating in B.C., including this new VOC Omicron.

“In addition, public health will be working with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Canada Border Services Agency to identify any people recently returned from the areas of concern to arrange testing and to ensure they remain well.

“In British Columbia, 91% of eligible people have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. So far, all of the Health Canada-approved vaccines are highly effective and provide strong protection against all variants. We will monitor the data on this new VOC to ensure that will continue to be the case. Reducing transmission and having high levels of protection through vaccination continues to be our best defence against all variants of COVID-19.

“We continue to urge all British Columbians to follow any provincial health officer orders or public health orders in place, stay home when sick, wash hands frequently and most importantly, to get fully vaccinated if you haven’t done so already.”