The B.C. government has announced that new COVID-19 restrictions are being implemented across the province as cases continue to surge.
Premier John Horgan, alongside Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix, announced that all indoor dine-in service, group fitness, indoor worship services and non-essential travel will be banned for three weeks amid rising coronavirus case counts.
The new restrictions are set to take hold at midnight on Monday, March 29 and will be in place until at least Monday, April 19.
“During the past week, case counts have risen unacceptably high, in fact, higher today than at the worst point of the second wave between November and January of this year,” Premier Horgan said during the live press conference.
What this means for restaurants is that any food and liquor-serving premises must only offer take-out or delivery services. All indoor dine-in services will be prohibited with the exception of outdoor patio seating.
Henry pointed out that she feels most restaurants have been doing a good job at following current dine-in regulations but says that she is seeing transmission through these facilities as younger generations continue to go out and socialize.
The provincial health officer also said that restaurant staff are finding it progressively harder to manage groups of people later in the evening, which she says is also a factor in the decision.
Horgan specifically called on younger people, particularly those aged 20 to 39, to follow the rules.
“My appeal to you is do not blow this for the rest of us, do not blow this for your parents and your neighbours and others who have been working really really hard making significant sacrifices,” he said.
For gyms, all adult group fitness classes will be suspended for the three-week period. Fitness centres or activities will be restricted to one-on-one or individual workouts.
“Contact tracing has shown us that these settings amplify the spread and as a result, activities indoors at these locations need to be on hold for now,” said Dr. Henry.
The new restrictions will also impact religious services and places of worship.
The previously announced order variance for limited indoor worship services will also now be suspended as B.C. continues to set records for daily case numbers.
“It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce this,” said an emotional Dr. Henry. “This is something that we have worked carefully with the faith leaders of all faiths and it is something that I know was important for people, but I cannot, in all conscious, with the increased numbers of cases that we’re having…allow these types of activities to happen right now.”
Outdoor religious services are able to continue under the current variance, according to Dr. Henry, because “it is much safer to have these types of activities outdoors.”
On top of the other three new regulations, Dr. Henry emphasized that travel between B.C. communities is limited to essential travel only at this time. This means travel between communities should be reserved for work or medical purposes only.
“We know that people have taken advantage of the weather and the March break to go places with their family and what that has meant is that we’ve seen a rapid rise of cases in people who have returned to their home communities,” Dr. Henry said.
She specifically outlined cases linked to the Whistler area, despite testing and contact tracing efforts. Dr. Henry said that these rise in cases are particularly “worrisome” as they’ve seen a spike specifically of the Brazil variant.
Dr. Henry noted that there has been increased transmission in communities across B.C. linked to the Whistler area. As a result, the popular ski resort is being shut down over the next three weeks, until April 19. Both Whistler and Blackcomb will be closed to skiers as the province aims at bringing the case count down while decreasing the augmentation of transmission that is stemming from the resort.
BC unveils new 3-week “circuit breaker” public health restrictions, amid rising case counts.
Indoor dining in restaurants and pubs banned, gyms closed, in-person church worship cancelled, Whistler closed, and masks for all students Grade 4 and higher now encouraged.
Full list: pic.twitter.com/kjQX8lxCjK
— Rob Shaw (@RobShaw_BC) March 29, 2021
“Rising case levels, variants of concern, increased transmission and an increase in more severe cases are huge concerns,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “B.C. public health officials are making the tough choices now to break the chain and protect our communities.”
When asked about supports for industries and staff who were being affected by the new regulations, Premier Horgan suggested that the government is already looking at possibilities, but didn’t present a conclusive plan Monday.
Horgan acknowledged that the government met with a table of business advisors across the affected industries this morning, prior to the press conference, in order pass along the new regulations, but also discuss possibilities for support measures.
“Minister [Ravi] Kahlon’s gone away and is working with his staff and my deputy to put in place any additions to the programs that are already in place as well as looking at how we can bridge the next three weeks, particularly for the hospitality sector,” Horgan said, adding that the government “will be there” for the businesses that are affected by the new restrictions.
For individual staff members that may lose work in the short-term, Horgan pointed towards current programs that are already in place while also implying new financial supports are not out of the realm of possibility. The premier was quick to acknowledge though that it can be tough to pass legislation in such a short time period in order to offer help immediately.
Horgan notes that more information will be made available as new initiatives are discussed and developed in the coming days.
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