British Columbia is delaying the full return to classrooms in January to allow public health officials to assess the impact of the COVID-19 Omicron variant and give school staff time to implement enhanced safety measures.

Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside says staff and students whose parents are health workers, as well as those who need extra support, will return to schools Jan. 3 or 4.

All other students will return to classrooms Jan. 10.

Whiteside says enhanced safety measures will include the cancellation of extracurricular sports and plans to control crowding at schools, such as through staggered recess and break times. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the order for a phased school restart today as B.C. recorded 2,944 new COVID-19 cases.

Henry says five more people have died in the past five days and 193 people are in hospital, including 66 in critical care.

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