By Ismail Shakil and Nia Williams
(Reuters) - Alberta and British Columbia are halving the required self-isolation period for vaccinated people with COVID-19 to five days, as the Canadian provinces adapt to workforce shortages and other challenges brought about by the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Omicron, which health experts say is highly transmissible but less severe than the Delta variant, has caused an exponential rise in coronavirus cases across Canada and prompted provinces to ramp up vaccinations, impose restrictions and change isolation and testing rules.
"We are seeing a lot of infection and now it's affecting people's ability to go to work or go to school," Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, told reporters at a briefing.
British Columbia will also now offer a booster dose of a coronavirus vaccine to all pregnant women six months after their second dose, Henry said.
In a separate briefing in Alberta, officials said that reduced self-isolation rules would come into effect from Monday for fully-vaccinated individuals who experience COVID-19 with symptoms resolving. Unvaccinated people will continue to be required to isolate for 10 days.
Ontario, Canada's most populous province, has also eased its isolation rules for vaccinated individuals with COVID-19 to five days.
Quebec, home to Canada's second-largest city Montreal, has banned private gatherings and imposed a night curfew to rein in rapidly rising coronavirus cases in the province.
In another day of a record-setting count of coronavirus infections, Ontario and Quebec, which together make up around 60% of Canada's population, reported 16,713 and 16,461 cases on Friday, respectively.
Alberta has paused regular reporting of coronavirus data for the New Year holiday period.
(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and Nia Williams in Calgary, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)