COVID-19 update: B.C. adds 375 cases, 7 deaths

British Columbia has recorded another 375 cases of COVID-19 and seven related deaths, the government announced Wednesday amid ongoing monitoring for the concerning new Omicron variant.

The update, provided in a written statement from the Ministry of Health, pushed the province's seven-day average for infections to 353 per day, up from 345 on Tuesday.

B.C.'s active case count also increased, to 2,936 from 2,889, while the number of infectious COVID-19 patients in hospital remained relatively flat at 301. The number of those patients in intensive care dropped to 98, marking the first time it's been below 100 since Aug. 30.

The latest numbers were released as Canada's federal and provincial governments brace for the impact of the concerning new Omicron variant, which has already appeared in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

Experts have noted the variant has an alarmingly high number of mutations, though it remains unclear how they will affect transmissibility, severity of illness and possible vaccine resistance.

Alberta confirmed two more Omicron cases on Wednesday, while announcing expanded COVID-19 vaccine booster eligibility. B.C. has previously said the boosters, which are now being given to select vulnerable groups, will be made available to all adults in the new year.

British Columbia has so far confirmed just one Omicron case, in a Lower Mainland resident who recently travelled to Nigeria. More than 200 other recent travellers to Omicron-affected countries have been identified and told to isolate.

While the government is monitoring for additional cases with whole genome sequencing, it has not announced any province-specific measures in response to the emerging variant.

B.C. health officials have urged residents to maintain their layers of protection, including masks and hand-washing, as they head into the holiday season, and to consider only gathering indoors with people who are vaccinated.

"If you have elders or seniors or people whose immune systems are compromised, we need to protect them through this highest-risk transmission season," provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday.

The federal government has already restricted travel from several southern African countries, and announced increased testing requirements for air travellers.

Earlier this week, B.C. began administering COVID-19 vaccines to children between the ages of five and 11, and 2,789 have received their first dose so far. Officials recently revealed unvaccinated children under the age of 12 have made up about 20 per cent of recent cases in the province, despite representing 10 per cent of the population.

A total of 84.8 per cent of eligible B.C. residents have received at least one vaccine dose, and 81.7 per cent have received two.