British Columbia

Restrictions return to B.C.'s North as COVID-19 numbers spike

Restrictions are returning to B.C.'s North in response to rising cases of COVID-19 throughout the region.

Gatherings in homes limited to one additional family or five guests as of Sept. 7  

A dozen Prince George nurses call for public support for pandemic health measures in May of this year. (Catherine Hansen / CBC)

Restrictions are returning to B.C.'s North in response to rising cases of COVID-19 throughout the region. 

Effective Sept. 7, personal gatherings in homes will be limited to one additional family or five guests while outdoor gatherings will be limited to 50 people.

Organized outdoor events of more than 200 people will need a COVID-19 safety plan in place.

In a Thursday afternoon teleconference, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says cases have "exploded" in a number of communities recently.

"We're focusing the efforts, as I mentioned, on areas of greatest transmission and risk, and I know this will be frustrating for some, and particularly in communities where we've not seen transmission for a while," said Henry, who was joined by Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Jong Kim, chief medical health officer of Northern Health.

File photo of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix who held a teleconference Thursday afternoon to announce new public health restrictions in northern B.C. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

Henry said outbreaks started in the beginning of August with some in large industrial camps across northern B.C.

When that slowed, regions and communities including Nechako, Fort St. James, Vanderhoof and Prince George saw high transmission with the spread coming primarily from social events, officials say.

"It has spread very rapidly, particularly in the last 10 days,'' she said.

Henry said the rate of transmission increased six-fold in a short period of time that led to an increase in hospitalizations and patients filling ICUs.

Dix added that 90 per cent of the people in hospital in the north who are in intensive care have not been vaccinated.

New measures in addition to mask mandate

She says the new measures are in addition to the mask mandate for indoor public settings that is already in place across the province. 

Although there are no travel restrictions in place, Henry urges anyone who has a trip planned to northern B.C. to reconsider travelling to the region until cases are under control.

B.C. reported 801 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, with 103 of them in the Northern Health region. Dix says the regions test positivity rate is more than double that of other health authorities in province.

"You can't solve this problem, the problem of low vaccination rates in one day, you do it one arm at a time and that's what we're doing," Dix said.

Last week, health officials announced that starting Sept. 13 the province will require proof of vaccination for certain non-essential activities such as indoor concerts, sporting events, restaurants, bars and movies. 

"That is one of the reasons that we've gone to the vaccine card as just another strategy to nudge those people who have been complacent," Henry said. 

She says she is confident that the new measures along with the vaccine card will help contain the transmission and reduce case numbers.

Northern Health joins Interior Health in announcing greater COVID-19 prevention restrictions in response to high case counts. 

With files from The Canadian Press

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