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Indoor dining at B.C. restaurants suspended due to COVID-19 case surge

Restaurants across British Columbia must suspend indoor dining due to rising coronavirus (COVID-19) case numbers in the province.
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Guests seated for indoor dining service with safety measures in place at Café Medina in Vancouver, BC

Restaurants in British Columbia must suspend offering indoor dining due to rising coronavirus (COVID-19) case numbers across the province.

New public health orders in British Columbia mandating a halt on indoor dining go into effect tonight at midnight. The new public health order amendments were announced by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry at a live press conference on Monday, March 29. 

Indoor dining will be off the table in the province until April 19. 

The new restrictions do not affect restaurants from offering outdoor or patio dining or take-out and delivery services.It has been just over a year since indoor dining at B.C. restaurants was first banned during the first wave of COVID-19 infections in the province. Those restrictions were lifted at the end of May 2020, but with limited seating capacity and regulations around health protocols and customer contact tracing.

Last summer, cities like Vancouver fast-tracked applications for temporary outdoor dining spaces in order to help restaurants recoup some of the lost revenue from reduced indoor dining capacities and other pandemic-related financial woes.

In recent weeks, however, COVID-19 case counts have risen sharply in B.C., including over 2,200 so far that are of COVID-19 "variants of concern."

"We are concerned that these variants are driving current infections," said Henry, which she said is what is prompting a need for the new changes to public health orders.

"Our goal throughout the pandemic here in B.C. has been to find our balance," said Henry. "Our balance is now off," she added, specifically pointing to the COVID-19 variants and the risk that indoor activities pose. 

"The past couple of weeks have put significant challenges in front of us," said Premier John Horgan during Monday's briefing. 

"We have made such great progress together, focusing on our collective well-being. We've come a great distance but we cannot blow it now," added the premier. "We have weeks and weeks to go and we need to redouble our efforts."

Horgan had specific words for B.C. residents aged 20 to 39. "Do not blow this for the rest of us," cautioned Horgan, pleading with younger British Columbians to curtail their social activities.