What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. for Dec. 31

·3 min read

THE LATEST:

  • Sale of alcohol in restaurants, bars and retail stores will stop at 8 p.m. on New Year's Eve, and resume at 9 a.m. on New Year's Day.

  • There were 683 new cases of COVID-19 in B.C. on Thursday and eight more deaths.

  • B.C.'s total pandemic death toll has risen to 901.

  • 374 people are in hospital, with 76 in intensive care.

  • A total of 17,510 people in B.C. have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine so far.

  • Vaccinations have begun in rural and remote parts of B.C., including some First Nations communities.

On Thursday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix defended the decision to halt liquor sales at 8 p.m. PT on New Year's Eve — a move that was announced a day earlier at a hastily called teleconference.

"Alcohol as we know and have seen too many times this year limits our inhibitions and rules can be forgotten," said Henry.

"What's important to recognize is 94 people have passed away from COVID-19 since Christmas Eve," said Dix. "We need everyone to dig in, to reduce the number of cases."

Restaurants, bars and retail locations have been ordered to stop selling alcohol between 8 p.m. on New Year's Eve and 9 a.m. on New Year's Day.

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

On Thursday, B.C. recorded 683 new cases of COVID-19 and eight more deaths.

The provincial pandemic death toll is now 901.

There are currently 7,803 active cases in the province, with 374 people in hospital, including 76 in intensive care.

Also on Thursday, Henry said immunizations had begun in rural and remote areas of B.C., including some First Nations communities.

Fewer people getting tested over holidays

B.C. has seen a downward trend in cases since restrictions on events and social gatherings took effect across the province late last month.

However, officials suspect that a lower number of tests completed over the holidays might be driving lower case counts in the last week.

Outbreaks have been declared at University Hospital of Northern B.C., Ridge Meadows Hospital, and Williams Lake Seniors Village.

Mandatory negative test needed to travel to Canada

The federal government announced Wednesday 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.

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What's happening elsewhere in Canada

On Wednesday, Canada's COVID-19 death toll hit 15,472, according to the Government of Canada dashboard.

As of 8 p.m. PT Wednesday, Canada's total case count was to 572,982.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.

  • Cough.

  • Tiredness.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Loss of taste or smell.

  • Headache.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911.

What can I do to protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean.

  • Keep your distance from people who are sick.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Wear a mask in indoor public spaces.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.