B.C. health officials have put new restrictions in place, including social gathering limits, to help reduce the spread of the Omicron variant.
Starting on Monday, indoor gatherings will be restricted to one household plus 10 other individuals or one additional household if everyone is vaccinated against COVID-19.
Proof of vaccination via the BC Vaccine Card will be required for all organized events. Currently, only events of 50 or more people must use the vaccine card.
The province will also require event operators to scan the QR code on the card, rather than do a visual check.
“We have been watching very closely what has been happening across this country and here in B.C. It is becoming very apparent that the trajectory of Omicron taking over Delta is happening here,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Friday.
She estimated B.C. is probably “a week behind Ontario.” That province reported 3,124 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and introduced new restrictions in response to the highly transmissible Omicron.
“We are seeing cases increase in the most populous areas. It is connected mainly to parties, unstructured social activities, and mainly in young people,” Henry said.
“We are not seeing severe illness in younger people with Omicron, in part because the vast majority are vaccinated.”
The new orders will also restrict moving around at restaurants. People will be required to stay at their tables while eating, rather than mingling.
Restaurants will, however, be able to operate at full capacity without any restrictions on alcohol service or hours of operation.
At larger venues, those with 1,000 seats or more, capacity will be set at 50 per cent and enforcement of mask requirements and QR-code checking will be enhanced.
Sports tournaments will be cancelled through the holidays to the end of January.
All organized events for New Year’s Eve are cancelled as they can be “super-spreader,” Henry said.
Retail stores must also have COVID-19 safety plans in place, especially with increased holiday shopping.
The province did not bring in any advisories around non-essential travel, after the federal government issued such an advisory earlier this week.
“I am really cognizant we have a higher rate of vaccination and there is a need to support loved ones and family in other parts of the province,” Henry explained.
The province said officials are still trying to fully understand the risks associated with the latest variant.
On Thursday, B.C. announced 753 new cases of COVID-19, more than doubling the number of new cases reported just one week earlier. Of those, 135 were the Omicron variant.
Henry said there’s no stopping Omicron, but B.C. can “flatten it out” to help prevent a surge in hospitalizations.