A spike in COVID-19 cases has forced B.C. to stop indoor dining, fitness, and religious services.

By Pioneer Staff
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Following provincial health officials’ announcement new restrictions in the wake of rising COVID-19 infections, B.C. restaurants, religious groups and group fitness gyms are now closing down services and activities.

“Rising case levels, variants of concern, increased transmission and an increase in more severe cases are huge concerns,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “B.C. public health officials are making the tough choices now to break the chain and protect our communities.”

“A circuit breaker is now required to break the chains of transmission in our province and allow us to safely move forward. Gathering indoors is too a great of a risk for us right now,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on March 29. “As a result, for the next three weeks, from midnight tonight through to April 19, 2021, the provincial health officer’s orders have been amended.”

Restaurants, bars, and pubs are only allowed to provide take-out or delivery service. Dine-in is only permitted at outdoor patios, and people should stay within their immediate household or core bubble. All indoor groups or group fitness classes, regardless of the type, are suspended. A gym or fitness centre can only provide one-on-one activities such as personal training. The class variance previously announced which allowed limited indoor worship services for indoor gatherings of 50 people has now been suspended. Under the current variance, outdoor worship services will be allowed to continue. To address and prevent community spread related to non-essential travel, Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort will be closed until April 19, 2021. Work from home is strongly encouraged whenever possible for all workers. Schools have also been required to follow public health guidelines in recommending that students up to Grade 4 wear masks while at school. The new rules came into effect at midnight March 29, and extend to April 19.

On March 29, Henry announced B.C. has had 816 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 1,280 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 142 in the Island Health region, 156 in the Interior Health region, and 121 in the Northern Health region. Of these, 321 are confirmed COVID-19 ‘variants of concern’ cases.

Vaccination rollout

B.C. is still in phase two of the COVID-19 Immunization Plan. During this phase, seniors born in 1941 or earlier not immunized in Phase one and Indigenous (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) peoples born in 1956 or earlier, elders and additional Indigenous communities not immunized in Phase 1 can call to get vaccinated at 1-877-740-7747. The call centre is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Priority groups such as hospital staff, community general practitioners (GPs) and medical specialists, vulnerable populations living and working in select congregated settings, staff in community home support, and nursing services do not need to call to book an appointment. 

“To date, 699,092 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-SII COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C., 87,289 of which are second doses,” explained Henry in a joint statement on March 29. 

It is intended that phase 3 and phase 4 will mostly be distributed based on age in five year intervals. Estimated dose one breakdowns are subject to change due to the availability of vaccines. It will take about 16 weeks for the second dose to be administered. 

“Let’s all stay outside, stay apart and stay with our same group of close contacts – always using our layers of protection no matter where we may be. This is what will allow us to get through this storm together,” concluded Henry.