Health officials in BC have imposed more restrictions on the northern part of the province in a bid to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Starting at midnight, personal gatherings inside and outside will be limited to fully vaccinated people, Provincial Health Officer Dr. announced on Thursday. Bonnie Henry during a live press conference.
Domestic restrictions will continue to be limited to five people, and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 25 people.
In making the announcement, Henry ruled out an area west of Kitwanga, including the Terrace, where she said the vaccination rate was much higher.
She said organized events, including weddings, would require a safety plan for COVID-19, everyone should wear masks and participants should be fully vaccinated.
Indoor organized events are limited to 50 people, but events organized outside can have up to 100 people in attendance.
Worship services are being limited to virtual services. Services for a person where people can have quiet reflection are only allowed.
Restaurants will continue to allow indoor dining with the use of the vaccine card. However, the alcohol service will end at 22:00
Bars and nightclubs will be closed if they do not serve a full meal as well as alcohol.
Under the new public health orders, Henry says indoor and outdoor sports are limited to 50 percent capacity, attendees must wear masks, and a COVID-19 safety plan must be in place. Spectators must also show their vaccination certificate.
Health officials are strongly recommending people stay in their community unless it is essential for work or medical reasons.
The restrictions will remain in effect until November 19, but can be extended if cases remain high and vaccination rates remain low.
“We’re aiming for this circuit breaker to save lives,” Henry said. “To lower transmission rates, to allow our hospital admissions to stabilize and enable us all to come back together safe to celebrate during the upcoming holiday season, I hope.”
The province set a limit on the collection and size of events in the region in early September as a result of growing cases and introduced a masked mandate across the province on 24 August.
The BC vaccine card program went into effect last month requiring anyone aged 12 and over who wants access to a range of non-essential internal settings to show evidence of at least one vaccine dose. From October 24, people will be required to have two doses of vaccine to access those services.
Even so, cases in the north continue to climb. On Thursday, the Ministry of Health reported 129 new cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Health region, the second highest number in the province. There are 677 active cases in the region.
On Thursday, Henry announced that a person in the region in their 20s had died from COVID-19.
Spreads have been reported at North University University Hospital in Prince George and Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton.
A total of 58 critical care patients have been transferred from northern BC to hospitals on the lower continent and Vancouver Island in order to keep beds in the north free. Most of the transferrs have been seriously ill with COVID, she said.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said there are 40 critical care beds in the north, and another 23 surgical beds were added to support the need for space for critical care patients.
“We’re all inside. We threw everything inside, but the kitchen sink and the kitchen sink came in a week ago,” he said.
“We also need to ask people in the north to do more.”
Earlier this week health officials expressed concern about the rising number of cases in communities across the north, and Henry then suggested that additional measures for the region were being considered.
“We are in a very different situation than we were a few months ago,” Henry said, pointing to the delta variant, which spreads faster and easier, and causes more serious illness in young people.
Although vaccination rates are rising in the north, they remain lower than the rest of the province; Christ’s northeast is the only part of the province where less than 60 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.
Only 53 percent of those living in the South Pacific have been vaccinated compared to 83 percent for the province as a whole.
Henry said there are unvaccinated people in their 30s, 40s and 50s who are seriously ill with COVID-19 and are dying.
Dix encourages people from all over the demographics to get vaccinated.
“We must continue to increase those vaccination levels, if we do we can significantly improve the situation,” he said.
British Colombians aged 12 and over who have not yet been immunized can register in three ways:
Dix said that if there is an increased demand for vaccination, the ministry will meet that demand.
“We are committed to supporting the north every day,” Dix said. “We need to take steps together to reduce transmission to the north.”
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