British Columbia

What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. for Jan. 29

Health officials are urging British Columbians to avoid non-essential travel as COVID-19 cases climb exponentially in the Whistler area.

Federal government suspends flights to some sun destinations starting Jan. 31

Whistler has seen 288 cases between Jan. 1 and Jan. 26., according to Vancouver Coastal Health.  (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

THE LATEST:

  • Canada has suspended flights to some sun destinations and introduced new measures for returning travellers.
  • 12 more people have died and there are 546 new cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday.
  • 291 people are in hospital, 75 of them in intensive care.
  • COVID-19 infections in Whistler reached a total of 288 cases between Jan. 1 and Jan. 26, according to Vancouver Coastal Health.
  • 12 staff at a Whistler hotel have tested positive for the virus. 
  • 127,255 people have received a dose of a vaccine, with 4,185 of those being second doses.
  • Premier John Horgan has promised punishment for COVID-19 rule-breakers, but won't follow Manitoba's lead in implementing a mandatory quarantine for out-of-province visitors.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday morning that major Canadian airlines will be suspending service to sun destinations, including the Caribbean and Mexico, beginning Sunday until April 30.

Travellers entering Canada will soon have to quarantine in a hotel — at their own expense — as the federal government introduces tougher restrictions to discourage international travel.

All international passengers returning to Canada will be required to pay to stay in a hotel for three days while waiting for the results of a mandatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to determine if they are carrying the virus.

Those that are, said Trudeau, will be quarantined in a designated government facility. Those with negative results will be required to quarantine at home for 14 days.

"Even one case is one case too many," said Trudeau. "Now is not the time to be flying."

Avoid non-essential provincial travel

Health officials are urging British Columbians to avoid non-essential travel as COVID-19 cases climb exponentially in the Whistler area.

Whistler has seen 288 cases between Jan. 1 and Jan. 26., according to Vancouver Coastal Health. 

Most of the cases are connected to young people in their 20s and 30s who work, live and socialize together and none of the cases have resulted in hospitalization or death.

According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, in the past two weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases per capita in the Howe Sound region has been two to 13 times higher than anywhere else in southwest B.C., with nearly one per cent of the region's population becoming infected in that time.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry repeated Thursday that outdoor activities like skiing continue to be safe, but it is the group parties and gatherings happening at ski hills that are the source of transmissions.

"We know that COVID-19 can travel with us, and we can just as easily bring it back on our return. If it is a day trip or a weekend getaway, the risk is the same," Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a statement Thursday.

Henry has previously said people should stick to their local mountains, which means those in the Vancouver area should head to the North Shore mountains instead of driving up the Sea to Sky corridor. 

Meanwhile, six restaurants and other establishments in Whistler have been identified as having COVID-19 exposures this month.

Henry said a number of bars and restaurants that have not been adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols have been closed down by public health, but did not specify if any businesses in Whistler had been targeted.

"It is not just on the restaurant owners," she added. "We know they get challenged by people who come in and want to mingle and want to sit with a larger group."

Interior Health has also declared a COVID-19 cluster in the Fernie region of southeastern B.C.

Since the start of January, 81 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the region and 63 cases are currently active.

More COVID-19 cases have been linked to community clusters related to social gatherings at Big White Ski Resort near the Okanagan city of Kelowna. An additional 11 bring the total number of cases there to 225.

Interior Health says 46 new cases linked to a cluster first identified Jan. 20 in the Williams Lake area in the central Interior have been identified.

Vaccine status

Henry has said that over the weekend the province received updates on future shipments of vaccinations — and that B.C. will not be receiving new doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines over the next two weeks.

As a result of the shortage, second doses of the vaccine will be delayed until 42 days after the first, rather than 35, in order to provide protection to a greater number of people.

The last update from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control confirmed six cases of the variant first reported in the U.K. and three cases of the variant first seen in South Africa. 

Henry said all cases of the variant from the U.K. are travel-related, but none of the variants first detected in South Africa have been linked to travel. 

The province has ramped up screening for the faster-spreading coronavirus variants of concern.

READ MORE:

What's happening elsewhere in Canada

As of 3 p.m. PT on Thursday, Canada had reported 765,096 cases of COVID-19, with 57,011 cases considered active.

A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 19,645.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Loss of taste or smell.
  • Headache.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or o​​​​​​ther extreme symptoms should call 911.

What can I do to protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean.
  • Keep your distance from people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Wear a mask in indoor public spaces.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

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