COVID restrictions in B.C. are expected to change in the following weeks, just in time for Family Day, which will be held on February 21 of this year.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said that the number of daily cases in B.C. has reached its peak. At the same time, 90% of its citizens who are 12 years or older have completed their 2-dose regimen of the COVID-19 vaccine.
This data has encouraged officials to consider lifting some COVID restrictions in B.C., such as those related to establishments utilized for social gatherings. This includes bars, theaters, restaurants, and sports venues.
However, Dr. Henry warns citizens that not all COVID restrictions in B.C. will be lifted. Doing so would put the safety of its citizens and the capacity of its healthcare system at risk. Based on experience, reopening the economy completely and without careful consideration can lead to a new surge of COVID-19 cases that will push officials to implement strict health measures again.
She said that “new variants will surely emerge. Immunity will wane, whether that’s from infection or from vaccination.” When the fall season comes, the rate of transmission can also increase once more.
This then requires government officials to proceed with reopening the economy using a phased-in approach.
On December 22, 2021, COVID restrictions in B.C. were tightened due to the increase in the number of new cases. Bars, nightclubs, gyms, fitness centers, and dance studios were prohibited from operating. Concert venues, theatres, movie theaters, and sports venues could only accommodate up to 50% of their capacity.
Some restrictions were amended on January 20, 2022, to be implemented in the coming week. Youth sports tournaments were allowed to be conducted, and gyms and fitness clubs could provide their services again. This was subject to limits on how many people could be in the aforementioned places at any given time.
Last Friday, January 28, 2022, the conditions of the B.C. vaccine card were also changed. Children who are 12 years of age or younger only need one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine to show proof of vaccination. This was done to ensure that citizens who are 11 years of age and have only received one dose will not have an invalid vaccine card by the time they turn 12 years old.
More discussions will be held regarding the lifting of COVID restrictions in B.C. The president and CEO of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association, Ian Tostenson, said that he hasn’t been included in these discussions yet but believes that they will be held in the coming week.
Tostenson said that lifting certain COVID restrictions in B.C. for the restaurant and food industry is not just about adjusting the capacity of the establishments. Rather, it is more about promoting the mental well being of the citizens.
He said that “the biggest thing out of all this is sending a signal to get people’s confidence back that they can actually start going out more”. The possibility of more establishments opening, enabling citizens to enjoy life outside again, can help people so that they can plan more gatherings and activities accordingly in the near future.
The mandates on the B.C. vaccine card and the wearing of masks have been beneficial for businesses. Both employees and customers are protected, making them more likely to go out.
What are the Current COVID Restrictions in B.C.?
All individuals who are 5 years of age or older are required to wear a mask when inside a public indoor setting. This includes, but is not limited to, grocery stores, airports, coffee shops, public transportation, libraries, clothing and retail stores, malls and shopping centers, and restaurants.
However, certain individuals are exempted from wearing a mask, such as children younger than 5 years old and anyone with health conditions that make them unable to wear or remove a mask by themselves. Individuals can also remove their masks to facilitate easier communication with another individual who has a hearing impairment.
A face shield cannot be used instead of a mask because they do not offer the same level of protection against the COVID-19 virus.
Attending Gatherings and Events
Indoor personal gatherings held at one’s residence or in a vacation accommodation should only be attended by people from the same household together with 10 other visitors or 1 different household. Vaccination is required for anyone 12 years of age or older.
Personal gatherings done outdoors are not limited to any number of attendees. However, it is still highly encouraged to stay with the same people and refrain from having too many people from different households in one place at the same time.
On the other hand, orgazined gatherings have more restrictions. Those that are done indoors, such as parties, celebrations, wedding receptions, and funerals, are not allowed.
Organized gatherings done outdoors can be conducted with 5,000 people, or 50% of the venue’s capacity.
Indoor events held at venues, such as concerts, theatre, dance, symphony performances, sports events, movies, lectures, presentations, workshops, and sponsored and ticketed events, can only accommodate up to 50% of their capacity. All attendees must be fully vaccinated and show their proof of vaccination prior to entering the venue. Masks should be worn at all times, and dancing is not allowed.
Casinos, fairs, festivals, and trade shows can operate at 50% of their capacity.
Worship services and choirs can be held with no limit on the number of attendees as long as everyone is fully vaccinated. Should this not be the case, only 50% of the seating capacity can be used.
Performing Activities for Exercise, Fitness, and Sports
Activities held indoors for fitness, exercise, and dance classes can be conducted with 25 participants at the most. Masks can be removed when actively exercising, but it would be safer if participants chose to do otherwise.
Public swimming pools can utilize 50% of their capacity. Pools located in hotels and apartments can be offered to their guests for use.
Sports activities are allowed. For sports activities done for the purpose of recreation, venues can only use up to 50% of their capacity. Competitions for skiing, swimming, skating, and regular league play can be held. Participants should wear a mask when not performing the activities and be fully vaccinated.
On the first day of February, sports tournaments for children and youth can also be conducted with the same conditions regarding seating capacity, vaccination, and wearing of masks.
However, sports tournaments for adults that involve 3 or more different teams are not allowed. Only individuals that come from the same adult team can compete with each other. Sports tournaments done to decide which adult team will be chosen for national and international competitions are exempted from this restriction.
Going to Food Establishments
Bars, nightclubs, and lounges that do not offer meals can not operate. This is also applicable to other establishments that do not serve meals.
Dining, whether done indoors or outdoors, is allowed. At most, only six people can occupy one table. Physical barriers or at least two meters of space are required in between tables. Customers are not allowed to wander around the restaurant and go to different tables; they should only stay seated at their table.
Proof of vaccination must be presented at the entrance of the establishments.
Visiting Family Members in Long-Term Care or Seniors’ Assisted Living Facilities
Visiting loved ones in long-term care facilities can only be done for essential purposes. This refers to end-of-life care and visits done to promote the mental well-being of the resident.
On the other hand, there are no restrictions on visiting loved ones in seniors’ assisted living facilities.
All visitors to both places should be fully vaccinated and must perform a rapid antigen test right before entering. A mask should be worn at all times when in common areas.