Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's provincial health officer, said at a press conference on Tuesday that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 "has the advantage" in the province as it continues to spread.
"Right now, in the tug of war of transmission, Omicron has the advantage and we see that in the rapidly increasing case numbers we’re seeing here, and that we’re seeing around the world," Dr. Henry said.
"It means a lot of people will get sick, and we are seeing that now, but [vaccines] will protect most people from serious illnesses and from hospitalizations."
B.C.'s provincial health officer indicated that about 80 per cent of new cases in the province are the Omicron variant.
She added that with the shorter, three-day incubation period of the Omicron variant, and with mild symptoms that could be similar to the cold or influenza, there needs to be a shift in efforts to contain the virus.
"That means that things like case and contact tracing are no longer reactionary measures that are able to work to help us contain this," Dr. Henry said. "It means that all of us have to be proactive in how we prevent ourselves from getting sick, but also how we prevent transmission to others."
"Our challenge across the board in the next few weeks will be dealing with high numbers of people who are off ill."
When asked about when B.C. will see its peak in cases, Dr. Henry said it's hard to know, but she expects it will be shorter than what we saw in previous waves in the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I think with the shorter incubation period, the shorter length of illness, that we’re probably going to see a shorter peak than what we’ve seen with previous waves," she said. "But it is day-by-day, looking at what we’re seeing."
"What we’re trying to do is flatten that out a bit, which will extend it, somewhat, but if we can flatten it out then we can protect our healthcare system, because even a small proportion of people needing hospital care can have such a dramatic impact on the healthcare system."