More health measures and safety protocols were announced for British Columbians today as COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the province.
Just one day after a series of restrictions came into effect, Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced further health measures during a live press conference in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and, in particular, the Omicron variant.
As part of the new restrictions, health officials will be requiring all gyms, fitness centres and dance studios to close.
“We know that these, unfortunately, have been places where transmission events have happened and have spread out to people in the community,” Dr. Henry acknowledged about gyms and fitness centres.
Bars and nightclubs will also be required to close, while food-primary establishments such as restaurants, cafes, and pubs will be limiting parties to six occupants per table.
“We’re going back to what worked for us during the last waves of the pandemic, so that is smaller groups,” Dr. Henry said in relation to the new restrictions at restaurants.
The province will also once again restrict movement at restaurants, meaning seated groups can not get up and mingle with other groups — a measure which came into effect on Dec. 20.
Indoor gatherings of any size are also being banned in the interim, which includes weddings, receptions and celebratory events.
The most recent personal gathering restrictions, which were part of Monday’s changes, continue to limit sizes to either two households or up to 10 vaccinated people.
These restrictions are set to come into effect at 11:59 p.m. PT on December 22 and will last until at least January 18, according to Dr. Henry.
“I know everyone is looking forward to being around their family and friends this holiday season after two challenging years. These restrictions balance the need for people to come together with the people they love with the need to collectively act to slow the spread of COVID-19. We know how to get through this – by following the same measures we’ve followed in the past to protect each other.”
The measures introduced on Tuesday will be in addition to the measures that came into effect as of Monday, which also include a 50 per cent capacity limit at seated events such as sports games and movies, as well as a ban on all sports tournaments and New Year’s Eve events.
According to Dr. Henry, these measures are in an effort to buy health officials time, while being prepared and safe over the holidays.
“The consequences of not slowing things down, of not taking these actions are just too dire. We need to protect our healthcare system for everybody who needs care,” said Dr. Henry during a live press conference on Tuesday.
The new restrictions are being implemented at the same time as a new wave of COVID has taken hold in British Columbia.
Dr. Henry says that the Omicron variant has rapidly replaced the Delta variant as the most common infection seen in British Columbians, particularly in high-populous areas that have shown low COVID-19 rates over the last several months.
The provincial health officer notes that this variation of the virus is able to affect people who have been previously exposed to COVID-19 as well as those who have been vaccinated.
The government also announced an expansion of its vaccine booster program starting in January when large venues, such at the Vancouver Convention Centre, will become mass immunization sites.
Rapid COVID-19 testing will also be expanded next month with the expected arrival of 11 million tests from the federal government. The tests that are currently available will be distributed at long-term care facilities, among healthcare workers and to rural, remote, Indigenous and vulnerable communities.
Last week, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry introduced restrictions that placed limits on the size of indoor personal gatherings, capped audience numbers in large venues, prohibited New Year’s Eve parties and kept indoor family gatherings to one household plus 10 vaccinated guests.