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B.C.’s top doctor hints at gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions in coming weeks

Click to play video: 'B.C. reports 1,462 new COVID-19 cases over three days, 11 deaths' B.C. reports 1,462 new COVID-19 cases over three days, 11 deaths
WATCH: Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reports 1,462 new cases of COVID-19 along with 11 related deaths on Monday, March 8 for three reporting periods. There were 545 cases from Friday to Saturday while 532 cases were reported from Saturday to Sunday, and 385 from Sunday to Monday. Dr Bonnie Henry also provides an update on the vaccine situation in B.C. and has a reminder for those calling to make appointments. – Mar 8, 2021

B.C.’s top doctor says the province may be easing COVID-19 restrictions in the weeks ahead, but that some measures designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus will be around for some time.

In a press briefing held Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said as more people are immunized and the weather gets warmer, her team is looking at how to “safely ease restrictions” designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Henry said any changes to COVID-19 rules would be gradual, akin to “slowly turning up the dial rather than flipping a switch.”

Click to play video: 'Seniors over 80 can book vaccines in some B.C. communities this week' Seniors over 80 can book vaccines in some B.C. communities this week
Seniors over 80 can book vaccines in some B.C. communities this week – Mar 7, 2021

“We’re not going to rush to get things open, but we will take a thoughtful, careful and phased approach over the next few weeks,” Henry said.

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Henry noted measures such as social distancing, and wearing masks will remain important. She also reiterated that “outside is better than inside” as the virus is less transmissible outdoors.

Read more: B.C. reports 1,462 new COVID-19 cases over three days, 11 deaths

Henry raised the prospect of a return to “activities outside that we can do in groups with precautions in place, small groups that we can do for games and summer camps or spring camps, and safe, small groups with masks and safety precautions in place.”

Click to play video: 'Outreach efforts look to overcome language and cultural barriers as B.C. begins mass vaccinations' Outreach efforts look to overcome language and cultural barriers as B.C. begins mass vaccinations
Outreach efforts look to overcome language and cultural barriers as B.C. begins mass vaccinations – Mar 7, 2021

“As well, we’ll be looking at how we can travel and explore during March break, as a family or a small group together with our household, exploring our own region.”

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She also said there have been discussions with community faith leaders about a gradual return to in-person services.

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Read more: No masks, no distancing: U.S. CDC says fully vaccinated people can gather indoors

The US CDC released guidelines that said fully-vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing.

Henry said the CDC guidelines looked “fairly reasonable” and something similar could be implemented in B.C. at some point in the future.

Read more: No masks, no distancing: U.S. CDC says fully vaccinated people can gather indoors

“Right now, we’re not at that point where we have enough of the people who are at risk immunized that we can have overall guidance,” she said.

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“But I think that’s a very good example of what we can look forward to as more people are protected, particularly more of our seniors and elders, in the coming months.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix urged caution, noting that about 15 per cent of B.C.’s eligible residents are expected to be immunized by the end of the month, which is “nothing like herd immunity.”

Read more: Alberta opens rest of Step 2 relaunch as 278 new COVID-19 cases confirmed

“The future is bright, but we can’t live the future right now. We’ve got to live the now right now.”

On Monday, Alberta lifted more COVID-19 public health restrictions, including allowing more people to shop in retail stores and malls.

— With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press

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