While the number of new daily coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in B.C. is lower than it was earlier this month, health officials say this week may see an uptick in numbers.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters in Tuesday's (Dec. 29) COVID-19 briefing that people have not been going for testing as much recently, which she believes is due to the winter holidays.
"There's a couple of reasons I believe the numbers are down," Henry said. "Partly it's [that] people have not been going for testing as much. And we know across the province that people going for testing has been down by as much as 50 per cent--and partly it's people don't want to be tested and have to isolate before this holiday, which is worrisome."
Henry added that the reluctance toward testing is problematic--even for people who are only staying with people in their households: "Even if it's just your household, you may bring this [virus] into your household and spread it to them."
Due to the lack of testing prior to the holidays, health officials expect testing will increase this week. Henry noted that the average incubation period for COVID-19 is approximately five to seven days, which is when people start showing symptoms.
"So, if people were around others at the Christmas period we would start to see that in the coming days. And again, this is why we need to all take a step back, we have this new variant in our midst," Henry emphasized. "Now we know that it's coming around the world we know that people are compelled to be with each other during celebrations, and we need to support each other to stay apart and connect with each other safely for this weekend, in particular.
"That is going to be so important as we have vaccine, and we're wrapping up our protection of people in our community."
COVID-19 variant from the UK
More cases of a new, highly transmissible COVID-19 variant strain are expected in B.C. in the coming weeks after the first incidence was reported on Vancouver Island over the weekend.
“While everything is being done to prevent spread to other people in the community, we do expect to see more cases of this variant in B.C. in the coming weeks, just as other jurisdictions are seeing,” a Health Ministry spokeswoman said Monday.
It’s for this reason that health officials are asking British Columbians to keep to their household members, avoid all non-essential travel, and use layers of protection including physical distancing and masks. “All British Columbians have to remember the virus spreads quickly but shows up slowly,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix in a joint statement.
In Tuesday's (Dec. 29) daily COVID-19 briefing, Henry added that British Columbians should continue to follow the same COVID-19 safety protocol in order to prevent transmission of the new strain.
"So the things that we are doing to prevent transmission are what is going to stop this virus. This variant is no different. So it's the very same things that we need to do that we did for the other variants that we've seen," she said.
"So that means staying away from others, keeping our groups small, keeping our physical distance, wearing masks when we're in indoor public spaces.
"All of those things are the things that will stop this variant, as well. And it just tells us that we have less room for error."
--With files from Cindy E. Harnett and Katie DeRosa