B.C.'s new public health restrictions come into effect Monday

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New public health restrictions, including limits on indoor gatherings, will come into effect on Monday in B.C. following a sharp rise in cases driven by the highly-transmissible Omicron variant. (Mike McArthur/CBC - image credit)
New public health restrictions, including limits on indoor gatherings, will come into effect on Monday in B.C. following a sharp rise in cases driven by the highly-transmissible Omicron variant. (Mike McArthur/CBC - image credit)

New COVID-19 public health restrictions come into effect Monday in British Columbia amid a spike in cases driven by the Omicron variant.

Restrictions were announced on Friday afternoon by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and will remain in place until Jan. 31.

They include the cancellation of organized New Year's Eve events and sports tournaments, as well as limits on indoor gatherings.

Indoor gatherings will be limited to household members plus 10 guests, or one additional household — as long as everyone over the age of 12 is fully vaccinated.

"We need to take these measures until we understand the full impact Omicron will have in the B.C. context," Henry said on Friday.

"It is imperative people follow the new orders in how they celebrate this season."

Henry also announced that the province will be stepping up scanning of vaccine QR codes to make sure proof of vaccination is confirmed in all settings.

She also urged retailers to have COVID-19 safety plans in place for Boxing Day and holiday shopping events.

WATCH | Henry asks British Columbians to cut back holiday parties:

Large events to limit attendance

Starting Monday, venues holding more than 1,000 people will be limited to 50 per cent capacity. Those venues already required patrons to show proof of vaccination using B.C.'s vaccine card.

Over the weekend, numerous events were cancelled or postponed due to the spike in cases.

This includes four Vancouver Canucks games. Home games against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday and the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday were called off.

The scheduled game after that, a road game against the San Jose Sharks, was also postponed, as was the following home game against the Anaheim Ducks.

Ticket holders for the four games have been told to keep their tickets as the events are pushed back indefinitely.

Broadway Across Canada's staging of Anastasia, originally scheduled from Jan. 18 to 23, has also been rescheduled due to the new restrictions.

Other cancelled events include the 2022 Vancouver International Auto Show, the 2022 Vancouver International Boat Show, and a Bryan Adams concert on New Year's Eve.

Restaurants to be seated only

As part of the new restrictions, diners at restaurants must remain at their tables and not mix or mingle with other parties.

Organized events will not be allowed, and diners will have to be seated at their tables — no standing or dancing allowed. Masks are also required when not seated at a table.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Jeff Guignard, the executive director of B.C. 's Alliance of Beverage Licensees, says restaurants and businesses are disappointed to see new restrictions again, ahead of one of the busiest times of the year.

"About 15 per cent of the industry has already been closed by the pandemic and I know others are just limping along month to month," he said on the CBC's The Early Edition. "The holiday season is a chance to finally make a bit of extra revenue and profit."

Guignard said business weren't surprised by the new restrictions and he's glad the province announced them weeks ahead of New Year's Eve to give them time to plan accordingly.

"I think everybody saw that the Omicron variant was spreading," Guignard said. "We can still accommodate some different things because we had a bit more time this year than we did last year."

In B.C.'s Northern Health authority, alcohol service is prohibited past 10 p.m., and nightclubs are closed.

The latest measures do not include an advisory against non-essential travel within the province or across the country, though health officials say unvaccinated people should not travel.

The federal government has already advised Canadians against international travel over the holiday season.

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