"I know that we can continue to support each other to do this together."
That's what B.C.'s top doctor says British Columbians need to consider heading into the holiday season as the province tightens up restrictions on indoor organized gatherings, events, and more.
The new guidance follows several changes to the Public Health Act announced on Dec. 17 that include restrictions on gatherings and events. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters in a press briefing on Tuesday (Dec. 21) that indoor organized gatherings pose a risk to public safety in the wake of surging cases of coronavirus in the province.
"We've supported each other to get booster doses, to have small gatherings, to do the right thing," she said. "But the challenge that we have is this virus doesn't recognize that.
"It has changed and so must we."
Over this holiday season, British Columbians will not be able to attend indoor organized gatherings of any size. From couples hoping to tie the knot with a large reception to companies hosting large celebratory events, the order states that no indoor organized gatherings will be permitted.
Indoor gatherings continue to be limited to one household plus 10 other individuals or one other household. Everyone who attends a gathering must be vaccinated; no unvaccinated people may attend parties or social gatherings.
But even if someone is permitted to visit a relative or friend doesn't necessarily mean that they should, emphasized Henry.
From Dec. 3 to 9, fully vaccinated people accounted for 45.1% of all 2,429 new cases in B.C. whereas from Dec. 9 to 15, fully vaccinated accounted for 57.2% of the 3,394 new cases. It is assumed, for now, the increases are a result of Omicron.
Individuals who are more likely to suffer severe illness from contracting the virus should be avoided, at least for in-person visits, she added, noting that It is "looking less and less likely" that the variant causes less severe illness.
B.C. health officials say the recently-discovered Omicron variant is tracking to become the dominant strain in the province—and it appears to be spreading rapidly in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
With a file from Graeme Wood.