Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has issued a statement about a new COVID-19 variant of concern, “Omicron.” Pictured here, Henry receiving a seasonal influenza vaccination in October. (B.C. government photo)

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has issued a statement about a new COVID-19 variant of concern, “Omicron.” Pictured here, Henry receiving a seasonal influenza vaccination in October. (B.C. government photo)

B.C. health officials report 341 new COVID cases, issue statement on Omicron variant

Effect of ‘Omicron’ variant on transmission and severity not yet known

B.C. health officials are notifying residents of newly-discovered variant of the COVID-19 virus.

In a joint news release, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said the impact of the new variant of concern, dubbed Omicron, is not yet known, but they thought it wise to issue the notification out of an abundance of caution.

“At this time, there is no evidence that this variant has been introduced into British Columbia,” the statement said. “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 variant of concern Omicron.”

The ministry will work with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Canada Border Services Agency to identify people who may have contracted the variant from abroad to set up testing, said the statement.

The province will continue to monitor developments around the world, it continued.

In a daily update, the ministry reported 341 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, including four epi-linked cases. Since January 2020, there have been 217,099 confirmed cases.

“There are 3,035 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, and 211,577 people who tested positive have recovered,” said the ministry. “Of the active cases, 291 individuals are in hospital and 115 are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation.”

There are 100 new cases in the Fraser Health, 65 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 77 in Interior Health, 31 for Northern Health and 68 new cases in Island Health.

RELATED: B.C. kids should have appointments for COVID-19 vaccine

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