Restrictions placed on indoor and outdoor gatherings are being lifted in British Columbia as the two-dose vaccine requirement for people attending their kicks in.
The revision to the provincial health order is effective Monday, Oct. 25, and comes as two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are required for anyone over 12 to access those gatherings.
The order had previously restricted capacity limits to 50 percent for indoor, organized gatherings. Still, as of Monday, these events will be allowed to operate at 100 percent capacity in places where the B.C. vaccine card is in effect, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Tuesday during a live news conference.
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However, regional health orders and restrictions in Northern Health, Interior Health, and the eastern Fraser Valley will remain.
These changes apply to:
- Indoor sporting events.
- Indoor concerts, theatre, movie theatres, dance, and symphony events.
- Indoor organized events such as weddings, funeral receptions outside of a funeral home, and organized parties.
Henry said not all residents may safely attend those events, including immunocompromised people who might not feel ready to be exposed to others in a large group setting. Therefore, mask requirements for indoor environments like these are still in place.
The order to remain seated at a table in restaurants and pubs will also be lifted Monday. However, indoor mask requirements will remain for all indoor gatherings and people moving around within restaurants and pubs.
Henry said that by ensuring only fully vaccinated people are allowed into more populated venues, the risk of transmission would be reduced.
“We do not see transmission in those settings where the vaccine card is used, where people are checking vaccine status.”
Henry said officials are looking into what other restrictions can be lifted as the COVID-19 situation evolves.
Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix also shared their frustration with efforts to crack down on businesses flouting.
COVID-19 safety rules.
“We’re disappointed to be at this place because health authorities, as you can imagine, are unbelievably busy,” Dix said.
The Fraser Health Authority is seeking an injunction against a restaurant in the hope that it refuses to follow COVID-19 health protocols.
“It shows people they don’t respect their neighbors, they don’t respect their business neighbors, they don’t respect their community,” Henry said of the restaurant.
Dix said he understands other businesses may be frustrated by the delay in punishing the offending company. Still, the government is committed to cracking down on those who refuse to follow health orders.
COVID-19 in schools
During the news conference, health officials announced that the B.C. The Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) will now provide data on COVID-19 in schools every month, with the first report released Tuesday, Oct. 19.
Public health contact tracing will begin each time a student or staff member receives a positive COVID-19 test. In addition, if the COVID-positive person has been in the school while infectious, a notification will be sent to parents alerting them of possible exposure, Henry said.
As of Oct. 19, 1,388 notifications of potential exposures for the current school year have been sent to 510 schools.
The BCCDC report says cases in young children aged five to 11 peaked in late September but are now trending downward. It tells the initial increase may have been due to increased testing among children as other respiratory viruses circulated at the beginning of the school year.
Henry said most children are at low risk for getting COVID-19, Henry said, and if they do, they tend to have milder symptoms.
She said there had been 94 COVID-19 hospitalizations in children aged five to 17 since the beginning of the pandemic, 10 of which required critical care. There were no deaths reported in that age group.
The report also says rising cases in children have not resulted in a significant rise in hospitalizations.
As of Oct. 14, 82 percent of eligible children in B.C. between the ages of 12 and 17 had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 73 percent were fully vaccinated.