To address rising COVID-19 case counts and keep people safe, the provincial health officer in a media release Friday is issuing revised orders, which take effect on Monday, Dec. 20, 2021.
Measures will extend to Jan. 31, 2022, at 11:59 p.m., 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.
The updated orders will be enacted under the Public Health Act.
- To date, evidence indicates Omicron is more transmissible than other variants of COVID-19; however, there is limited evidence to date on severity of illness.
- B.C. has a vaccination rate of 86.8% for all eligible age groups for a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 82.5% for a second dose.
- The Province announced its full booster dose campaign on Oct. 26, 2021.
- Vaccination remains the most effective protection from severe illness.
- From Dec. 8-14, people not fully vaccinated accounted for 46.3% of cases in B.C., and from Dec. 1-14, accounted for 70.2% of hospitalizations.