The Federal and BC governments have announced new public health restrictions today to control the accelerated spread of COVID-19. As in most jurisdictions around the world the number of COVID-19 cases has been rising rapidly in BC and Canada, but there is no cause to panic.
BC has a strong foundation in place, with a high vaccination rate, a third dose strategy (booster) well underway, and the BC vaccine card or “passport” requirement well established.
Escalating cases and hospitalizations are due to a mix of factors including waning effectiveness of the first round of doses after 6 months, increased socialization over the holidays, ability of the Omicron variant to get past the vaccines, and the susceptibility of those who remain unvaccinated against all strains of the virus.
Although early indications are that the Omicron variant is less lethal than Delta, the rate of spread combined with other factors raises serious concerns about overloads at hospitals. Dr. Henry estimates that 20%-30% of BC cases will be Omicron in the next few days. Researchers have yet to determine for certain if the Omicron variant is more contagious than other variants, or whether the disease it causes is more or less severe.
It is essential that we take precautions and do our part.
Vaccinations are the best protection and can reduce the severity of the infection. Safety protocols including masks and social distancing must stay in place. Stay home if you feel sick and get tested. Keep gatherings small and only include double-vaccinated people.
NEW RESTRICTIONS FOR BC STARTING MIDNIGHT SUNDAY, DECEMBER 19 THROUGH JANUARY 31
- Personal indoor gatherings in rental and vacation properties are limited to residents plus 10 guests, or two households maximum if everyone is vaccinated.
- The BC Vaccination Card must be presented at all organized events of any size.
- Movement at food establishments such as restaurants and bars is restricted. There can be no mingling of tables or visiting people at other tables.
- There are no capacity or operating hour restrictions on bars and restaurants.
- Venues of 1000 or more are limited to 50% capacity.
- All sports tournaments are paused. Games are allowed but not more than two teams may come together at a competition.
- New Year’s Eve parties at public venues are canceled. Restaurants can stay open but diners must stay at their tables and with their small group.
- Provincial travel is not restricted due to COVID-19 but may still be restricted for other reasons, for example in areas hit by recent flooding.
- Interprovincial travel is not restricted but this is a very uncertain time and travelers must navigate changing restrictions in all jurisdictions, at potential personal risk.
- Churches must operate within capacity limits and are required to implement the Vaccine Passport.
- The BC booster program is being accelerated to 6 months for youth (previously 8 months).
New Federal Restrictions Also Announced
- Canadians are advised to avoid all non-essential travel outside the country for the time being. Christmas travel plans should be cancelled.
- Starting on Tuesday December 21, Canada will again require a negative PCR pre-arrival test for all travelers, including double-vaccinated Canadians and Permanent Residents, and those who were leaving for less than 72 hours
- The travel ban on 10 African countries will be lifted as of Saturday night.
More information from the BC industry briefing earlier today:
- Family gatherings are up to the individuals involved: if a member of your family is not vaccinated, gather based on your own comfort with risk for that person’s health. Keep gatherings small, open the windows, reduce the risk.
- Temporary Foreign Workers will be provided vaccines and boosters on arrival in Canada as needed.
- Working from home is recommended as a best practise if possible.
- Conferences are not being canceled or restricted for the time being. However organizers should make sure that only vaccinated people are attending, and stick to the COVID safety plans that we have had in place – space, ventilation, masks, distancing – as well as other restrictions.
- The booster dose is not part of the Vaccine passport as yet.
- This is not the time to be hosting company holiday parties.
- Children are not included in the vaccination card program, but they should be vaccinated. Children can become ill and bring the virus home and it can be very disruptive in their lives.
- Booster shots are now being scheduled for people whose second dose was more than 6 months ago.
- Any mixture of vaccine types is safe and effective.
For up-to-date statistics regarding COVID-19 in BC please refer to the BC CDC Dashboard.