The province has announced new restrictions in the Northern Health Authority to reduce COVID-19 transmission and hospitalizations in the north.
Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the measures in a press conference this afternoon calling the situation in the north “an enormous challenge” for the entire province.
Dix explained that 58 critically ill patients have been transferred by plane out of overwhelmed hospitals in Northern Health. Of those patients, 45 are people with COVID-19 including 25 from the Peace River local health areas and all but one of them not fully vaccinated.
Dix said having to move critically ill patients out of their home communities is a “powerful and profound thing you would not wish on anyone.”
There are 48 base critical beds in the entire north, not just for COVID-19 patients but for every critically ill situation, with only 23 surge beds to support.
“When you are talking about moving 58 people out of authorities that only have 48 critical base beds, all of them critically ill, that is a significant situation,” said Dix.
He said this demonstrates why we need a circuit breaker to support the steps they are taking in Northern Health.
“We are all in, we have thrown everything in but the kitchen sink and the kitchen sink went in a week ago. We are doing everything we can to support the north,” said Dix. “But we need to ask people in the north to do more.”
Henry explained that immunization rates are not high enough in the north to slow the rate of transmission, especially because the Delta-variant is more transmissible and causes more severe illness in younger people.
“Today tragically we had a young person in their 20s die from COVID in the north. We need to take additional measures to stop this transmission. To stop this severe illness in young people, in middle-aged people and in people whose immune systems are not working as well across the north.”
The new measures build upon regional orders introduced in September will go into effect at midnight tonight (Oct. 14) through to Nov. 19.
- Personal gatherings both indoor and outdoor will be restricted to fully vaccinated people only.
- Indoor gatherings will remain restricted to five people, and outdoor gatherings restricted to 25 if they are all fully vaccinated.
- All indoor/outdoor organized events (weddings, parties) will require a COVID-safety plan and require everyone to wear a mask and be fully vaccinated, utilizing the B.C. vaccine card.
- Indoor events will be limited to 50 people even fully vaccinated and out door events will be limited to up to 100 people.
- Worship services will be limited to virtual services only
- Restaurants will continue with in-person dining with the use of the B.C. Vaccine Card but serving of alcohol will be limited to 10 p.m.
- Fast-food restaurants and unlicensed cafés without table service can provide take-out only or require patrons to present the BC Vaccine card showing they are fully vaccinated.
- Licensed establishments and those with table service must not serve alcohol between 10pm-9am and must require patrons to present the BC Vaccine Card showing they are fully vaccinated.
- Sports events with spectators will be limited to 50 per cent capacity and attendees must wear masks and use the B.C. Vaccine Card
- People are strongly encouraged to remain within their communities and only travel for essential reasons like work or medical trips
The changes apply to the entire northern health region with the exception of the local health areas west of Kitwanga including Terrace, Kitimat, Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Stikine, Telegraph, and the Nisga'a area.
“Those are areas where we have seen this virus not able to spread because of those high rates of vaccination and people taking the precautions that we have asked.”
Henry said these measures are intended to stop transmission and to save lives. She said to support these measures the province is stepping up enforcement of the B.C. Vaccine Card where it is required.
“We do not take these actions lightly and I recognize the impact required of everyone living and working in the Northern Health region and across the province,” said Henry. “We are intending this circuit breaker to save lives, to lower the rates of transmission and to allow our hospitalizations to stabilize and enable us all to come back together safety to celebrate during the upcoming holiday season.”
For all the details of additional health measures now in place visit news.gov.bc.ca/stories/additional-health-measures.