Four days after restrictions reduced such things as personal gathering sizes and large venue capacities, even more activities are being limited in B.C. due to the impact of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
“Omicron is definitely spreading rapidly and is more transmissible with what we have seen with the Delta variant,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “In addition, we’re seeing it now rapidly replace Delta as the predominant variant that we are seeing causing illness here in British Columbia.”
“It is inevitable now that most of us in the province will be exposed at some point. The way the virus is being transmitted, this strain of the virus is being transmitted in communities across the province, it is over time very likely that all of us will have exposure to it. How it affects us depends on our own actions and what we are doing,” said Henry.
Cases in the province among those aged 18 to 35 have spiked, although there are still some unknowns about the variant including the severity of illness it causes. There is also evidence that Omicron is reinfecting people who previously had COVID-19 as well as infecting those who are fully vaccinated.
New restrictions will be in place beginning on Thursday (Dec. 23) and will continue through Jan. 18. There can be no indoor organized gatherings of any size including weddings. Bars, nightclubs, gyms, fitness centres and dance studios must close. All seated events are reduced to 50 per cent capacity regardless of size, including concerts, sports games, theatres and movie theatres. A maximum of six people can sit at each table at restaurants, pubs, cafes and the like, plus either physical distancing or barriers between tables.
Personal gatherings continue to be limited to your household plus one other household or a maximum of 10 guests, all of whom must be fully vaccinated if they are aged 12-plus.
B.C.’s PCR testing capacity is being stretched, which the province plans to combat with the use of rapid tests expected to arrive later this month.
Some will be made available at sample collection sites for people with symptoms, as well as in other settings:
• Long-term care, for use by staff and all visitors
• Health-care workers in acute care, for symptomatic staff and/or close contacts
• Rural, remote, Indigenous and vulnerable communities, for symptomatic testing and case/contact management
• Businesses and organizations, to expand the point of care screening program
• Cast/contact management and outbreaks, to be used by regional medical health officers and health authorities
Beginning in mid-January, rapid testing will be expanded to more community locations as well as providing tests to those involved in K-12 and post-secondary education.
Vaccination capacity will be expanded at locations across the province, including the Vancouver Convention Centre that will serve the Vancouver Coastal Health region (which includes Richmond). That site has a capacity potential of 130,000 shots in January with a start-up date of Jan. 5.
Scheduled surgeries will again be postponed beginning Jan. 4 to manage pressures on hospital capacity. Urgent and emergency surgeries will continue.
“As we head into the holidays, no matter how we celebrate this special time of year, we can view it with the magic and joy that has always renewed us and those around us, and we can do it without giving COVID new strength and purchase,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix.
Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel