B.C. orders restaurants, bars and stores to stop liquor sales at 8 p.m. on New Year's Eve

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B.C. is ordering restaurants, bars, and stores to stop the sale of alcohol after 8 p.m. PT on New Year's Eve, in a bid to prevent a spike in COVID-19 cases after the last day of the year.

Restaurants are able to continue meal service after 8 p.m., and the sale of alcohol can resume at all retailers at 9 a.m. on Jan. 1.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix made the announcement on Wednesday, saying that poor decision-making about following COVID-19 rules is "often fuelled by people indulging too much in alcohol."

"We've had concerns that get-togethers over the holidays will lead to increased transmission. We've had low testing rates, we think because people are reluctant to be tested over the holidays," said Henry.

"We are concerned leading into New Year's Eve, particularly in resort communities, places where we see parties develop."

Henry said that generally restaurants in B.C. have successfully implemented COVID-19 safety protocols, and that people gathering for dinner in a restaurant with members of their immediate household is not a concern.

"I'm comfortable with people dining out at restaurants that have a strong plan," she said.

"What we're concerned about is people who want to stay later and consume alcohol and put people in a situation where they're putting staff and themselves at risk."

485 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in B.C.

Henry also confirmed another 485 cases of COVID-19 across British Columbia and 11 more deaths. There are currently 7,551 active cases in the province, of which 379 people are in hospital, including 77 who are in intensive care.

She also confirmed that Moderna vaccines have now arrived in 10 isolated and high-risk communities throughout B.C.

A total of 14,027 people in B.C. have received one dose of immunization so far.

Earlier Wednesday, Interior Health confirmed the number of COVID-19 cases linked to the community cluster at Big White ski resort had risen to 111.

Provincial case numbers provided Tuesday, which covered a five-day reporting period, were the lowest the province has seen since early November. The figures were in line with the downward trend B.C. has seen since regional restrictions on events and social gatherings took effect across the province late last month.

However, officials conducted about 50 per cent fewer tests over that five-day period compared to the same period the week before. That means fewer tests over the holidays might be the driver of the low case count trend.

Current restrictions are in effect until Jan. 8, meaning rules must be followed on New Year's Eve.

On Wednesday the federal government announced that air passengers entering Canada will soon need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before arriving in the country.

Under the new protocol, travellers must receive a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within a 72-hour period prior to boarding a plane. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said he expects the new rule will be in force within a week.

The measure does not replace the federal government's mandatory 14-day quarantine period.