VICTORIA — Dramatically rising case counts of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in Ontario, Quebec and around the world has British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix warning about a “time to exercise caution.”

B.C. supports the federal government’s call to advise Canadians against international travel over the holiday season due to the rising threat of the Omicron variant, Dix said Wednesday.

“I think that’s good advice to take,” he said at a news conference. “There will be other trips.”

Premier John Horgan said in a statement the highly transmissible Omicron variant has created conditions where people should not take chances with international travel.

“While this advice undoubtedly disrupts many holiday plans, a fast-changing and unpredictable situation demands we act with caution and prudence,” he said. “Avoid non-essential travel and follow public health guidelines. Plan your vaccinations and booster shots.”

Travel within Canada over the holidays should also be reconsidered despite the disappointment of possibly not gathering with family and loved ones, said Dix.

“The message is, if you’re not vaccinated definitely don’t travel,” he said.

B.C. is also considering implementing further public health orders on large and small public and private gatherings in an effort to limit the spread of the highly transmissible variant, Dix said. 

Possibly expanding public health orders that place limits on gatherings, which could include Vancouver Canucks games and informal private parties, may come early next week, he said.

Ontario introduced 50 per cent capacity limits at large sporting events, including on games played by the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

But Dix said B.C. will not follow Ontario when it comes to providing vaccine booster shots immediately to all residents who are 18 years and older.

He said B.C.’s COVID-19 booster program is based on scientific evidence that concludes most people are offered the best protection receiving a third dose six to eight months after the second shot.

B.C. reported 584 case of COVID-19 on Wednesday and seven more deaths, for a total of 2,393 fatalities. 

The vaccination rate for those five and older in the province has reached 82.4 per cent. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 15, 2021.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press