Other provinces reduced isolation requirements for people who tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday in an effort to lessen staff shortages as the Omicron variant continues to generate a surge in cases.
British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta and New Brunswick have become the latest provinces to reduce isolation to five days for people who have received at least two doses of a vaccine if they contract the virus.
“With the rapid increase in the number (of cases), we face some challenges,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, Chief Medical Officer of Health for British Columbia.
“The disease we are seeing, especially among healthcare workers, is starting to impact our healthcare system and our long-term care system,” she argued.
Those who are still symptomatic after five days must continue to self-isolate until they feel better, and those who become asymptomatic must wear a mask in the presence of other people for an additional five days – according to rules also entered in effect in alberta friday.
Preliminary research suggests that the Omicron variant causes less serious complications than previous strains. But experts say the large number of cases – caused by Omicron’s high transmissibility – threatens to overwhelm healthcare systems both because more people will be hospitalized and more healthcare workers will be infected.
New Brunswick Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said her province is also experiencing a staff shortage due to Omicron.
“We expect the situation to become even more difficult as we experience this most recent wave of COVID-19,” she said.
Quebec and Ontario have reported having more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients hospitalized. Quebec reported 151 people in intensive care units with the virus on Friday, while Ontario reported 205.
Ontario and Saskatchewan both announced Thursday that they are reducing the isolation period to five days.
Aiming to avoid service breakdowns and more power cuts, Quebec announced this week that it will allow healthcare workers with COVID-19 to work under certain conditions. The directives must make it possible to bring back to work employees from other sectors considered essential.
The announcements followed a decision on Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States on a reduction in the isolation period.