VANCOUVER — British Columbia has recorded its highest-ever daily COVID-19 case count with 1,474 new infections reported Wednesday as the Omicron variant takes over. 

The fast-spreading variant led provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to impose new rules, closing bars, dance studios and fitness facilities until at least Jan. 18.

B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie released a statement in response to rising case numbers, calling on the province to make rapid antigen tests widely available for people to use before visiting older loved ones at the highest risk of severe illness.

Mackenzie also asked the government to reduce the requirement that at least six months must pass between someone’s second dose of vaccine and their booster dose in conjunction with its plan to speed up the rollout of third shots. 

Provincial officials had announced plans earlier this week to expand the availability of both rapid tests and booster shots to the broader public starting next month.

The Health Ministry notes the number of new cases reported Wednesday was provisional due to a “delayed data refresh” and would be confirmed once verified.

Active COVID-19 cases have surged to 7,253 across B.C., including 187 people in hospital, and six more people have died, bringing the province’s death toll to 2,409.

The biggest jump of 711 new infections and the highest number of active cases were located in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, followed by Fraser Health.

The Health Ministry says in a statement that 86.7 per cent of eligible people aged five and up have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 82.7 per cent have had two shots and 18 per cent of eligible adults have had a booster.

It says people who have received two doses of vaccine made up nearly 72 per cent of new COVID-19 cases from Dec. 14 to 20, while people who had not been vaccinated accounted for almost 68 per cent of hospitalizations from Dec. 7 to 20.

Also Wednesday, the University of British Columbia announced that most classes would move temporarily online at both its Vancouver and Okanagan campuses.

In a statement, university president Santa Ono says campuses will remain open but instruction after the holiday break will be provided online until at least Jan. 24. 

Ono says they intend to allow in-person learning after that, but university officials will monitor the situation and provide an update in the first week of the new year. 

Some courses, including those with clinical or performance and studio components, are set to continue in-person with safety protocols in place. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 22, 2021. 

The Canadian Press