Updated December 21 at 2:05pm (scroll to bottom for latest)
This afternoon at 1:00pm the Government of BC announced new holiday restrictions in BC due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
New BC Restrictions due to COVID Omicron Variant Over the Holidays
To address rising COVID-19 case counts and keep people safe, the provincial health officer is issuing revised orders, which take effect on Monday, December 20, 2021
Measures will extend to January 31, 2022, at 11:59pm, and include:
- limiting indoor, personal gatherings, including in rental and vacation properties to the household/residents plus 10 individuals, or one additional household maximum if all are aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated;
- requiring the BC Vaccine Card for organized events of all sizes and ensuring the QR code is scanned at events;
- seating requirements and restricting movement between tables at food and liquor-serving premises, and reinforcing the need to wear masks when not seated;
- limiting venues of 1,000 individuals or more to 50% of the seated capacity with reinforced masking requirements and scanning of the BC Vaccine Card QR code;
- pausing all sports tournaments while the order is in effect; and
- all New Year’s Eve organized gatherings and events will be restricted to being seated-only events, with no mingling or dancing allowed.
The provincial health officer is also emphasizing the need for retail stores to have COVID-19 safety plans in place for holiday and Boxing Day sales.
“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. “Slowing the spread and keeping each other safe is a cause in which we are all connected. It’s that togetherness that will get all of us through the next days and weeks.”
B.C.’s COVID-19 case rate has nearly doubled over the past week. So far, there have been 135 cases of the Omicron variant of concern identified in B.C., with numbers expected to rise rapidly. While public health continues to monitor the impacts of Omicron, including severity of illness and hospitalizations, the recommendation is to take a cautious approach at this time.
“While vaccination remains the best defence against COVID-19, we are now dealing with the new threat of a more transmissible variant,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “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.”
In addition to the provincial health officer orders, British Columbians are advised to limit indoor gatherings to those who are fully vaccinated, to ensure proper ventilation indoors, to avoid all travel if not fully vaccinated and to follow the travel advisory issued by the federal government to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada.
For the latest information visit the Health BC website and BC Government news website.
UPDATE December 21, 2021
Revised provincial health officer orders will take effect on Wednesday, December 22, 2021, at 11:59pm.
The restrictions will extend to January 18, 2022, at 11:59pm, and include:
- no organized indoor social events and gatherings of any size;
- concerts, sports games and theatres reduced to 50% seated capacity, regardless of venue size;
- closing gyms, fitness centres and dance studios;
- closing bars and nightclubs; and
- limiting table sizes at restaurants, cafes and pubs to a maximum of six people per table with physical distancing or barriers.
These restrictions are in addition to the revised orders that took effect on Monday, December 20.
The Ministry of Health is postponing non-urgent scheduled surgeries starting Jan. 4, 2022, to manage pressure on acute care facilities. Urgent and emergency surgeries will continue, and rescheduling will be determined through continuous monitoring of capacity and COVID-19 impacts throughout January and on a regional basis.
“COVID-19 cases continue to increase at a concerning rate, and we must take stronger measures to help protect British Columbians and ensure our health-care system is there when people need it,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “It’s a critical time in our fight against COVID-19. Now is the time for us to act, and to work together to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our loved ones safe.”
Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, said: “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.”
In addition to the provincial health officer’s orders, British Columbians are advised to get fully vaccinated if they have not already done so, to get their booster shot as soon as one is offered, to stay home if they are sick, to avoid all travel if not fully vaccinated and to follow the travel advisory issued by the federal government to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada.