B.C. health restrictions to continue indefinitely

·2 min read

B.C.’s current public health restrictions, including those prohibiting gatherings of any size, will continue.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry made the announcement today during a COVID-19 modelling presentation. While she did not give a specific end date for restrictions, she said there is a possibility of preparing for the return of some activities at the end of this month including youth sport, faith gatherings and social interactions with bubble contacts or a ‘safe six.’

“We are seeing some encouraging signs here in B.C.,” Henry said. “(But) we need to buy time to understand whether these variants of concern are going to affect transmission in our community, and we need to buy time to get our immunization program back up to speed.”

Even one or two “super-spreading” events or a slight increase in contacts with others can quickly counteract progress made in the province, she added. In the near future, British Columbians’ efforts can “either allow the virus to spread or slow it down even more.”

In order to lift some restrictions, Henry said she would continue to monitor daily case rates, outbreaks, locations of clusters, presence of variants, and vaccination progress.

“We are in a place of a little bit of uncertainty. We need to buy some time to understand if the positive things we are seeing will allow us to take away some of the restrictions we have in place now, and be able to do that safely,” she said. “If we start to see variants take off, then all bets are off, and we may need to actually increase some of the restrictions that we have in place.”

Henry said the number of cases of variants of concern has risen to 28. Nineteen of these are the so-called United Kingdom variant—14 of which were acquired through travel and five or which were acquired locally in close contacts of travellers.

“In the last week or so, there’s been some data to suggest it might cause more severe illness,” said Henry of that variant.

There have also been nine cases of the South African variant in B.C., only one of which was acquired through travel. Henry said the eight cases acquired locally are concerning—and in five of those cases, public health does not know where the person acquired the virus. Additionally, she said some vaccines may not work as well on the South African variant.

“It is very concerning for us that we manage and prevent repeated importations of these types of variants,” Henry added.

Further data on today’s new COVID-19 cases will be shared by health officials later today.

Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel