B.C. confirms it will announce updated COVID-19 restrictions Tuesday

UPDATE: B.C. gyms and fitness centres will be able to reopen on Thursday, according to the province’s latest update. Read the full story here

B.C. businesses, including restaurants, bars, gyms, event venues, and places of worship won’t have to wait as long as they thought to hear from provincial health officials about whether or not COVID-19 restrictions will be extended.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued an updated order Monday that said due to the ongoing threat posed by COVID-19 and the burden currently faced by the healthcare system, she was extending restrictions that were set to expire at midnight.

The latest document published by the province says “this Order does not have an expiration date,” leaving many to assume the restrictions would be indefinite.

However, the province has since clarified the order was issued to bridge a gap between the expiration of one order, and the announcement of others.

“The previous December 22nd orders had end dates of 12:01 am, Tuesday, January 18.  Dr. Henry will be providing an update on the new orders on Tuesday, January 18 – this updated order was made to ensure the order remained in place until Dr. Henry spoke about them on Tuesday,” said a statement from the health ministry.

Health Minister Adrian Dix took to Twitter to repeat this information, apparently taking issue with the confusion the order issued Monday caused and saying Henry was clear an update would be coming during Tuesday’s briefing.

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Bars, restaurants, event venues, and the fitness industry are among the businesses anxiously awaiting an update, given the restrictions have limited their operations since before Christmas.

Tables at restaurants are limited to six people, indoor events are capped at 50 per cent capacity.

Jeff Guignard, executive director of BC Alliance of Beverage Licensees, estimates B.C.’s hospitality industry has already lost about 15 per cent of its businesses, and he expects another 15 per cent before the end of the pandemic.

Gyms and fitness studios have been closed completely, although high-performance athletes are allowed to train, travel, and compete.

Industry representatives like Fitness Industry Council of Canada president Sara Hodson described dire situations for their members, saying an extension of the order would likely be the final nail in the coffin for many businesses.

Earlier in the month, Henry said she was not interested in continuing to roll out restrictions.

“This is about activating all of those layers of protection available for your business in your situation, to keep you from having to shut down because you don’t have enough people to operate,” she said on Jan. 4, when she urged businesses to have contingency plans in place to deal with staff illnesses.

Other restrictions staying in place for now include limiting outdoor events to 5,000 people or 50 per cent of seating capacity, excluding staff, whichever is larger and there must be seating available for everyone.

Proof of vaccination is required for entry to any allowed events.

Events at private residences or vacation properties are still limited to one household plus 10 other people as long as everyone is vaccinated.

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