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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Dr. Jong Kim, Chief Medical Officer of Northern Health, stopped by Moose Talks on Friday to talk about the health authority aligning with provincial guidelines and why COVID-19 testing is now not as available to the general public.

COVID-19 testing procedures are now focusing on individuals at a higher risk of infection due to the highly-transmissible nature of the Omicron variant.

Since the onset of the pandemic, provincial health officials have strongly encouraged residents to get tested if they have COVID-19 symptoms, now the message has changed. A week ago, Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the change and stated that those showing symptoms don’t need tests because they should be staying home regardless.

British Columbians have been left with limited testing options as most people don’t qualify for government-funded rapid antigen or PCR testing.

Kim says because Omicron infections are more transmissible but usually result in less severe illness, only those at a higher risk of infection will be prioritized for testing.

“Compared to the previous week, we’re seeing the much larger number of cases with the Omicron that also means that the capacity we have for the testing and the follow-up really need to focus on the people at the high risk that we can actually make a difference with the testing,” Kim explained.

“The people who were at the high risk have changed too with the Omicron variant. For each individual, we see the last severity, especially if you’re fully immunized; there’s less risk for hospitalization.”

Kim says the province will focus on two major groups at the most risk – those who are immunocompromised and those in higher-risk settings, such as healthcare workers.

On Friday, Dr. Henry said that COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings are expected to be gradually lifted next month, beginning on Family Day. She says this is possible because 90 per cent of residents ages 12 and over in B.C. have received two doses of vaccine.

 

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