BC health officials have announced new COVID-19 restrictions to limit indoor personal gatherings and large public events effective Monday, December 20 at midnight. They serve as revisions to existing health orders.
The announcement was made Friday afternoon by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix.
The measures are meant to curb transmission of the virus throughout the holidays, with the Omicron variant of concern proven to be more transmissible than previous variants.
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Indoor personal gatherings, including in rental vacation properties and resort properties, are now limited to one household plus 10 other individuals, or one additional household, but only if all in attendance fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated people should not be permitted.
BC will also be amending the BC Vaccine Card program to cover organized events of all sizes. Right now the BC Vaccine Card is required for events over 50 people, but now it applies to all events, regardless of the number of people in attendance.
There’s some good and bad news if you had plans on December 31. All New Year’s Eve parties and events are effectively cancelled, but restaurants can still have regular service on New Year’s Eve.
Movement will be restricted at food establishments like restaurants, meaning no mingling between tables. Henry also reinforced the importance of wearing masks.
Events with over 1,000 people in attendance, which includes concerts and large sporting events, like Canucks games, will operate at 50% capacity. Henry also announced that BC will be pausing all sports tournaments, and related travel.
“These measures will help us to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect the ones we care about,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health in a statement.
According to Henry, cases are increasing in more densely populated areas like the Vancouver Coastal Health region, largely due to public events and parties.
“While vaccination remains the best defence against COVID-19, we are now dealing with the new threat of a more transmissible variant,” added Henry.
“We need to take these measures until we understand the full impact Omicron will have in the B.C. context. It is imperative people follow the new orders in how they celebrate this season. However, there are many things we can now do safely with reasonable and prudent measures like wearing a mask, staying home when sick, getting tested and, most importantly, getting fully vaccinated.”
The good news is that being fully vaccinated seems to provide protection against severe illness against the Omicron variant so far, according to Henry. But, she also suggests there is still a lot left to learn about Omicron and that the point about severe illness can change.
The restrictions come into effect with a steady rise in cases in BC. The province saw 584 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, and 753 cases on Thursday. In addition to the COVID-19 cases, BC also revealed that 135 cases of the Omicron variant of concern were identified in the province on Thursday.
More to come…