For the next three weeks, indoor dining must cease in B.C. as part of a “circuit breaker” announced today by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Outdoor dining on patios can continue, as well as takeout and delivery service. Beginning at midnight tonight, through April 19, several other activities will also be removed or restricted.
Indoor adult group fitness classes of any kind are paused, but individual or one-on-one activities can continue. Indoor worship services, announced last week, are suspended as well. Henry also encouraged people to limit all travel between communities to essential travel for work or medical reasons only.
As a result of increasing cases in Whistler, the ski resort will be closed for the next three weeks as well. There has been a “worrisome” cluster of the P.1 (Brazil) variant in Whistler, as well as transmission from travel between Whistler and other communities.
“It is critical right now that if you or anyone in your family develops any sign of illness, especially children returning from spring break and you have travelled, stay home from work or school and get tested immediately,” said Henry.
Henry also confirmed that use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people under age 55 will be halted temporarily across Canada due to concerns around serious outcomes registered in other parts of the world. She said there will be a further update in a few days.
In response to questions about where the remaining AstraZeneca doses could be used, Henry said "it is possible" it may be used in people over age 55, including potentially in the age-based vaccine program.
Public health guidance around schools in B.C. has been updated to “support and encourage” students in Grade 4 and up to wear masks at all times. In the Surrey School District, masks are mandatory for students in the same age group.
Henry reminded people that outdoor social activities should be limited to groups of no more than 10, including the same people each time. People should spread out rather than clustering close together. Indoor social activities continue to be restricted to those in your household only.
“At this time, it is a step back from where we want to be and where we need to be. But when spikes and surges become a sustained trend, we need to take those steps to protect those we love and those we don’t know. We need a circuit breaker to stop this virus now,” said Henry.
She also announced 2,518 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend—936 from Friday to Saturday, 805 from Saturday to Sunday and 774 in the last 24 hours. B.C. has registered 98,165 cumulative cases since the pandemic began.
Of the new cases, 816 are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region (including Richmond), 1,280 in the Fraser Health region, 142 in the Island Health region, 156 in the Interior Health regions, 121 in the Northern Health region and three in people who normally live outside Canada.
The latest local case data showed there were 136 new cases in Richmond between March 18 and 24.
There are 299 people in hospital with COVID-19, 79 of whom are in critical care. Six people died over the weekend as a result of the virus.
Henry announced three new healthcare outbreaks and declared one over. There are now four active outbreaks in long-term care, assisted living or independent living facilities and nine in acute care facilities.
Variant cases grew by 329 over the weekend, reaching a total of 2,233. Of these, 413 are active cases. There are 1,915 cases of the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) variant, 48 cases of the B.1.351 (South Africa) variant and 270 cases of the P.1 (Brazil) variant.
Henry called the increase in the P.1 variant a concern, as it’s known to be more transmissible and “has been shown in some parts of the world to be less amenable to the vaccine,” she said.
To date, 699,092 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, 87,289 of which are second doses.
Health Minister Adrian Dix addressed the rise in test positivity, which had been hovering around 6.5 per cent each week when the seven-day average was examined. However, as of today that number is at 9.68 per cent, which he called “very significant growth.”
For the latest medical updates, including case counts, prevention, risks and to find a testing centre near you: http://www.bccdc.ca/ or follow @CDCofBC on Twitter.
Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel