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COVID-19: B.C. to ban indoor organized events, shut nightclubs, and keep home gatherings small

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: New restrictions around at-home events in B.C. as rules go into effect'
COVID-19: New restrictions around at-home events in B.C. as rules go into effect
WATCH: Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines the new restrictions around gathering over the holidays for at-home events. – Dec 21, 2021

The British Columbia government has brought in a suite of new restrictions just before Christmas in an attempt to protect hospitals from a surge in Omicron COVID-19 cases.

No indoor organized gatherings of any size will be allowed including weddings, receptions, holiday parties and other events.

All the restrictions will come into place on Dec. 22 at 11:59 p.m. and last until Jan. 18, 2022. The restrictions will add to the measures put in place by the province last week.

Read more: B.C. to accelerate vaccine booster plan in January as Omicron variant spreads

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines indoor social gatherings over the holiday season'
COVID-19: Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines indoor social gatherings over the holiday season

“Much has happened since Friday. There is still so much we don’t know,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

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“What we do know is the variant is rapidly replacing Delta in the province starting in the Lower Mainland. We are following a trajectory we have seen in other countries and across Canada. What we do not know yet is the severity of illness.”

Bars, nightclubs, gyms, fitness centres and dance studios will be closed across the province.

Seated events will be reduced to 50 per cent capacity regardless of the size of the venue including concerts, sports games, theatres and movie theatres.

There will be no capacity limits at restaurants but there will be a maximum of six people per table at restaurants, pubs and cafes.

“Restaurants, pubs and cafes can still operate but we will go back to what we did before. There must be room between tables. There must be a maximum of six people and people cannot move between tables,” Henry said.

Read more: B.C. to ramp up rapid testing, expand at-home kits in January

Click to play video: 'B.C. bars not ready to write off New Year’s, despite new COVID restrictions'
B.C. bars not ready to write off New Year’s, despite new COVID restrictions

Read more: B.C. seeing Omicron cases doubling ‘every two days’: experts

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The orders around personal gatherings limit indoor, personal gatherings, including in rental and vacation properties to the household/residents plus 10 individuals, or one additional household maximum if all are aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated.  But the suggestion is events stay as small as possible and it remains one consistent group.

“If you have family and friends that you need to be with, then do it, do it safely,” Henry said.

She said the number 10 will give people a “reasonable approach” to gathering over the holidays.

“I know that some very large families want to have one other household that they have close, that they can support each other. And that’s why we’ve talked about two households. But the real thing is that I’m appealing to people to know what your risk is in your community, your family, and making sure that you keep things as small as possible and forego some of those multiple events with multiple different people,” Henry added.

She said it is important to also make sure you have enough space for people inside as people do not wear masks and get close to one another.

“So recognizing that if you have people in your household who are at risk of more severe illness,” Henry said, “particularly if you have children who are not yet vaccinated.

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“Find ways to safely gather with elderly relatives, whether that’s wearing masks and doing it partly outside.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: New restrictions around at-home events in B.C. as rules go into effect'
COVID-19: New restrictions around at-home events in B.C. as rules go into effect

Everyone must be vaccinated for social gatherings. Unvaccinated British Columbians are legally not allowed to attend social gatherings outside their household.

The province is not advising against travel within B.C. But all the other social gatherings rules will apply to people who are travelling.

International travel has additional restrictions and the federal government is not advising any international travel.

“This is a balance here. People need to spend time with their families. If you have any symptoms, if anyone in your social circle has had symptoms, don’t go. If you are not vaccinated, don’t go,” Henry said.

“This is the time when people who have done the right thing and need to be with family can go.”

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Read more: B.C. COVID-19 cases soar over the weekend with 2,550 new infections

In order to protect the hospital system pre-emptively, the province will be postponing non-urgent scheduled surgeries starting Jan. 4, 2022. Urgent and emergency surgeries will continue and rescheduling will be determined through continuous monitoring of capacity and COVID-19 impacts throughout January and on a regional basis, the province said.

“We have been stressed to our limits and we can’t allow that to happen across the province. If we wait to take measures it would be too late to prevent catastrophic access to care,” Henry said.

Click to play video: 'B.C. imposes capacity restrictions to fight Omicron’s spread'
B.C. imposes capacity restrictions to fight Omicron’s spread

The Omicron variant continues to be more transmissible than Delta, spreading more rapidly between people. The province is still trying to determine the severity of illness but there is the potential for significant impacts on hospitals.

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Omicron has significant immune escape meaning the virus is re-infecting people who previously had COVID-19 and also infecting people who are fully vaccinated.

There has been a significant spike in COVID-19 cases in British Columbians aged 18 to 35 and the province is trying to “buy more time” to learn more about Omicron and ensure more of the population have received booster doses.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Omicron is rapidly replacing the Delta variant as the dominant strain in B.C.'
COVID-19: Omicron is rapidly replacing the Delta variant as the dominant strain in B.C.

Cases of COVID-19 in B.C. soared over the weekend with another 2,550 new infections reported.

There were 911 detected between Friday and Saturday, 832 from Saturday to Sunday and 807 from Sunday to Monday.

In addition, B.C. recorded 1,308 cases on Tuesday, with 756 of those being the Omicron variant.

Read more: B.C. COVID-19 cases soar over the weekend with 2,550 new infections

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Click to play video: 'B.C. could see substantial new COVID-19 restrictions'
B.C. could see substantial new COVID-19 restrictions

On Monday afternoon, the Centre for Disease Control said Omicron is now the most common coronavirus variant in the United States, accounting for nearly three-quarters of COVID-19 cases.

Henry said there’s no stopping Omicron, but B.C. can “flatten it out.”

Here is a summary of the new restrictions:

  • no organized indoor social events and gatherings of any size (for example, weddings and parties);
  • concerts, sports games and theatres reduced to 50 per cent seated capacity, regardless of venue size;
  • closing gyms, fitness centres and dance studios;
  • closing bars and nightclubs; and
  • limiting table sizes at restaurants, cafes and pubs to a maximum of six people per table with physical distancing or barriers.

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