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5 cases of Omicron variant confirmed in Vancouver Island region, more expected


Five cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the Vancouver Island region as the island continues to play an outsized role in driving new coronavirus cases in British Columbia, health officials said Tuesday.

Forty-four cases of the variant were confirmed in the province as of Sunday, with 24 cases identified in Fraser Health, 11 in Vancouver Coastal Health, five in Island Health, three in Interior Health and one in Northern Health.

Four of the Omicron cases on Vancouver Island have been linked to recent gatherings of University of Victoria students. More than 120 coronavirus cases have been linked to the parties and more cases are expected to be confirmed in the days ahead.

"As of yesterday there are 124 cases associated with a number of social events off-campus, for the most part," said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry during a live news conference Tuesday.

"It looks like that outbreak has been driven by Delta [variant] as well as an introduction partway through of Omicron related to a rugby tournament that has sadly spread Omicron to communities and university communities across the country," she added.

The UVic cases prompted the school to abruptly cancel all in-person exams starting Monday.

"This is a highly vaccinated population," Henry added. "About 97 per cent of the university community at UVic has been vaccinated so we have so far seen very mild illness in most people but it is not innocuous. There are some young people who are getting quite sick with this."

Henry called the spread of COVID-19 in the Island Health region "concerning," as the island region continues to record some of highest new daily case numbers in the province.

The health officer said the province is not currently considering imposing travel restrictions on Vancouver Island amid the rise in cases, preferring instead to work directly with local health authorities to reduce transmission where clusters arise.

"There have been measures taken by Island Health in and around the outbreak and we believe that it is contained in UVic," Henry said. "We need to recognize that this virus is with us and it spreads." Top Stories

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