British Columbia

Province doesn't expect restrictions to return even as COVID-19 spreads through B.C. workplaces

As COVID-19 continues to spread, some businesses are reporting staffing shortages and operational challenges. 

Schools, transportation among sectors feeling strain of staff absences

Businesses are still dealing with absences due to COVID-19. (CBC)

As some businesses in British Columbia report staffing shortages and operational challenges due to COVID-19, the province's health minister says he doesn't expect restrictions to return anytime soon.

Ron MacGillivray said he has dealt with sick workers at his three restaurants, including Vancouver's Fable Diner and Bar.

"In the last three or four weeks ... we've had at least two to three staff out at each restaurant constantly," he said.

The B.C. Teachers' Federation says educators are also feeling the strain.

"Anecdotally, certainly teachers are still getting sick and the impact in this environment is really significant in schools," BCTF president Teri Mooring said.

The Surrey School District said it has seen a three per cent rise in illness-related absences in April and May compared to February and March. 

The shortage of family doctors in B.C., came to a head last week at a rally in Victoria. We speak to B.C.'s Minister of Health Adrian Dix.

B.C. Ferries says it is facing the same COVID-related staffing issues as other sectors. 

Around 200 employees were unable to work in late January amid the Omicron wave, B.C Ferries said. Current totals are less than half that, but absences can have a significant impact on operations depending which crews are affected.

The Vancouver Airport Authority said operations are not being affected by sick calls from workers, but could not provide insights into workers at the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, Canada Border Services Agency, or airline partners.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn that he didn't think restrictions would return any time soon, but said we need to prepare for cold and flu season come the fall.

"Inevitably during such seasons, you see a resurgence of COVID-19 and other kinds of respiratory illness," he said. 

In its last update, on Thursday, the province reported 540 people were in hospital with COVID-19, including 49 in intensive care. Numbers provided by the province are preliminary, and it's difficult to draw any definitive conclusions about trends. 

"It's not surprising that we are hearing [about] cancelled activities, lost work because of COVID because we just have high enough rates. Omicron is transmissible enough," said Caroline Colijn, a COVID-19 modeller at Simon Fraser University.

The Health Ministry says vaccines continue to be the main tool for managing COVID-19 in the long term and people are encouraged to get a booster dose if they have not yet had one. 

The ministry also encourages people to stay home when they're not feeling well and wear a mask when appropriate. 


Jon Azpiri is a reporter in Vancouver, B.C.


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