B.C. pauses indoor dining, religious gatherings, closes Whistler as COVID-19 cases rise

As COVID-19 cases rise, B.C. is introducing sweeping new restrictions as of midnight tonight. Liza Yuzda has more on the province’s three-week ‘circuit breaker.’

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As the province sees a rise in COVID-19 cases, new restrictions are being brought in, including limits for eateries, religious gatherings, and even the closure of Whistler Blackcomb.

As of Tuesday and lasting at least three weeks, indoor dining will not be allowed at B.C. restaurants, bars, and pubs, with only patios and take-out options permitted.

British Columbians dining on patios can only do so with people from their immediate household or core bubbles.

Related article: Return of B.C. ban on indoor dining could mean layoffs, closures

The province is also suspending its previous allowance for religious gatherings and indoor adult group fitness activities.

“It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce this — this is something that we have worked carefully with with faith leaders, of all faiths, and it is something that I know was important for people,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday.

“I was very hopeful, even as late as last week, that we would be able to get through this next few weeks, keeping where we were. And it really has been the dramatic increase in the last five or six days that has shown us we’re on a trajectory … which worried me because when you have 500 cases a day, the probability of it going up exponentially is much higher. So it really is a race in time if we will between being able to keep cases low enough, and our vaccine protecting more and more people. But it takes time for the vaccine to have that optimal protection,” she added.

Whistler Blackcomb closed

Henry says there has been transmission related to travel to and from Whistler and other communities, posing a real concern for spread. This is despite increased testing, contact tracing, and other measures taken by Vancouver Coastal and the community, transmission continues in the Whistler area.

“…And we’re starting to see cases increase again in that community, and particularly in the past week, with the more worrisome cluster of the P.1 Brazil variant of concern,” she said Monday.

As a result of the mounting concern, Whistler Blackcomb will be closed until at least April 19, when the other measures are also set to expire.

Henry is urging people who are feeling unwell to get tested and then stay home, and for people to work and study from home if they are able to.

“We’re asking everybody to take that measure again to work primarily from home as much as possible,” she said.

‘Do not blow this,’ says premier

Premier John Horgan did not mince words when he took to the podium during Monday’s news conference. He emphasized that British Columbians need to redouble their efforts and “focus on individual responsibility for the greater good.”

He says many people are doing their part and regularly watching news conferences. “[But] the cohort from 20 to 39 are not paying as much attention to these broadcasts and quite frankly, are putting the rest of us in a challenging situation. I’m asking, I’m appealing to young people to curtail your social activity,” he said.

“My appeal to you is do not blow this for the rest of us. Do not blow this for your parents and your neighbors and others who have been working really really hard making significant sacrifices, so we can get good outcomes for everybody,” he added.

High daily case counts 

B.C.’s high daily case counts continued over the weekend, with 2,518 new cases in the past three days. There were 936 new infections between Friday and Saturday, 805 between Saturday and Sunday, and 774 between Sunday and Monday.

There have now been a total of 98,165 cases of COVID-19 in B.C.

Six more people died of the illness over the weekend, for a total of 1,455.


Pausing use of AstraZeneca vaccine in younger people

Amid rising concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine and its potential link to rare but serious blood clots, B.C. is moving to pause using the drug in people under the age of 55 for the next few days.

“Health Canada has issued what they call terms and conditions to obtain more information from AstraZeneca about the risk-benefit profile, and what this might mean to people here in British Columbia and in Canada,” she explained.

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She says there have been some cases of vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, in line with the findings from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).

“If you have received the AstraZeneca vaccine, and it’s more than 20 days since you’ve received it, there is no concerns,” Henry said. “If you have received the AstraZeneca vaccine and you develop symptoms that are concerning such as headaches or swelling, and we have a list of those symptoms on the BCCDC website. You can seek medical attention.”

She says it is a “very rare” condition and “it is unlikely we will see any cases here in British Columbia or in Canada, but it is also a condition that we have a test for.”

NACI announced its new recommendation on Monday for the AstraZeneca vaccine to not be used in people under the age of 55.

“We anticipate that we will have more information in the next two to three days. Health Canada is working closely with the European medicine agencies in the United States and the U.K. to understand what this means in those countries, and if there are implications for people here in British Columbia,” Henry said.

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