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B.C. reports 2,944 new COVID-19 cases, five deaths

193 people are in hospital across the province
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"Vaccines make a huge difference," says B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

The provincial government has announced 2,944 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a news conference there are now 16,014 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C.

Since Dec. 24, there have been five new deaths related to the virus.

A full data release would come later Wednesday, but Henry said there are now 1,576 active cases in the Interior Health region. There are 7,192 active cases in Fraser Health and 5,462 in Vancouver Coastal Health.

Across B.C., there are 193 people hospitalized with the virus, 66 of whom are in intensive care.

Henry said health officials are continuing to learn about the Omicron variant, which is driving the rapid spread of the virus.

"The rate of transmission has impacted a number of different parts of our system that we've had in place including the effectiveness of contact tracing. The incubation period is fast," she said, explaining the period of time from when a person contracts the virus to shows symptoms has fallen from from about six days to three.

Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside announced they would be delaying the start of in-person K-12 classes until Jan. 10, 2022. Some children will return on Jan. 3 or 4 as planned, as will teachers and school staff, but the delay will help develop improved safety plans in the face of the Omicron variant.