VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s provincial health officer is advising businesses to put contingency plans in place to continue operating as up to one-third of their staff could be off sick with the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says private companies, schools and health-care sites must all prepare for a wave of illness by reinforcing safety protocols like physical distancing to protect as many people as possible.

She says businesses that require employees to come into a workplace should stagger shifts and break times, use Plexiglas barriers and limit the number of customers entering the premises.

Henry says schools must remain open as a delayed start to classes begins next week because they provide the best social, emotional and intellectual development for children.

She says the next few weeks will be challenging as the province weathers a “pandemic storm” and capacity to test those who are sick is limited as 80 per cent of infections in the province are now due to Omicron.

Henry says vaccines are the best protection against infection, and case and contact tracing can no longer help contain the fast-spreading variant.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2022.

The Canadian Press