British Columbia’s top doctor ordered all restaurants across the province to cease dine-in operations as the province announced 77 new cases of the novel coronavirus, for a new total of 348.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there are now 22 people in hospital, 10 of them in intensive care.
British Columbia has now recorded nine deaths. Six people have fully recovered.
Thirty-six patients and 18 health-care workers at North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley Care Centre have tested positive for the virus. Eight of B.C.’s nine deaths were residents of the facility.
On Friday, Fraser Health confirmed a case of COVID-19 at a fourth Metro Vancouver seniors’ home.
Health-care workers from facilities that have seen an outbreak are restricted from working at other seniors’ homes, and the province is working to implement a similar policy for contract workers.
About two-dozen health-care workers around the province have been infected, Henry said, though none has faced serious illness yet.
“It’s been a tremendous challenge for our health-care sector to watch what has been happening these last few weeks and months around the world,” said Henry.
“I have been watching with them very, very carefully and looking at what are the things we best need to do to protect our health-care workers.”
Health Minister Adrian Dix said health-care workers are “performing miracles” every day.
“We will ensure you have the equipment you need,” he said. “We have supplies and we will get more.”
Dix said the province has freed up thousands of acute care beds in recent days, in part by cancelling non-essential surgeries, to prepare for a possible influx of serious COVID-19 cases.
B.C.’s acute care beds are currently at 85 per cent capacity, while critical care beds are at 62 per cent capacity, Dix said.
He also pledged to prosecute anyone caught stealing medical supplies.
Officials also told the public to expect an announcement on child care amid the pandemic soon.
Social distancing plea
On Friday, Henry extended her provincial health order to require all restaurants in B.C. to move to take out and delivery only, following a similar order by the City of Vancouver earlier in the day.
However, she said there are many businesses that can and should stay open — provided they take safety precautions — both to keep the economy alive and ensure people have access to goods they need and childcare if they must continue to work.
Both Dix and Henry renewed their appeal for the public to stay home as much as possible and maintain a distance of two metres from others.
Henry said her order banning gatherings of more than 50 people does not mean it is safe for people to gather in groups smaller than that.
“The order is that over 50 is forbidden,” she said.
“Under 50, if you have a certain thing that needs to be done … you need to maintain distance, you need to maintain hygiene.”
Gatherings should be limited to groups of one or two people or family members, Henry said.
The province has now performed more than 17,900 tests for COVID-19, with a focus on people with severe symptoms, health-care workers, and people involved in outbreak clusters.
Health officials say the test does not work on people without symptoms.
Around the province, 200 cases are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 95 are in the Fraser Health region, 30 are in the Island Health region, 19 are in the Interior Health region and four people are in the Northern Health region.
Earlier Friday, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart ordered all restaurants to cease dine-in service.
Canada also closed its border with the U.S. to all but essential travel on Friday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said Friday that more than 500,000 Canadians have applied for employment insurance, as businesses across the country shut down amid social distancing measures meant to help contain the spread of the disease.
Anyone entering Canada is required to self-isolate for 14 days, and B.C. health officials have told returning travellers they will not need to be tested if they are showing mild symptoms.
People who believe they need a test are being directed to phone the 811 helpline or use the province’s self-assessment tool.