A Vancouver infectious disease specialist says B.C. can likely expect to see more regional restrictions akin to those currently imposed on the Central Okanagan, as the COVID-19 pandemic enters a new phase.
Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre, said we’re still living in a “world of COVID,” and that current vaccination rates won’t be enough to completely stop transmission, particularly with the Delta variant here.
“We must never forget that despite all of the good vaccination rates we are seeing — hopefully still to improve — we still live with COVID,” he said.
“I think going forward, what we will see is localized imposition of restrictions in response to case counts that are reported in different parts of the province.”
B.C. toughened restrictions in the Central Okanagan on Friday amid an outbreak in the region driving high case counts in the Interior Health region.
Along with a mask mandate for indoor public places, officials have resurrected restrictions on bars, nightclubs and restaurants and reimplemented size limits on social gatherings.
Prior to the Okanagan outbreak, B.C. had only issued major regional restrictions once, in November 2020 in the Lower Mainland. Those restrictions were expanded within weeks to cover the entire province.
Conway said COVID-19 is likely to remain a concern for months or even years.
Regional restrictions would allow public health to address flare-ups in a way that won’t disrupt the entire province, he said.
“There will be cases, there will be outbreaks, and we will respond to them. We know what works, we know what prevents the transmission of COVID,” he said.
“We will be imposing these kinds of restrictions — hopefully for not very long, hopefully on a regional basis, not on a provincial basis.”
As of Friday, more than 56 per cent of B.C.’s active COVID-19 cases were in the Interior Health region, where vaccination rates have lagged behind the rest of the province.
Nearly half of all ICU cases were also in the interior.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said transmission was being driven by the Delta variant, particularly among people aged 20-40 years old, who were the last to get access to immunization.
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