B.C. is a few days behind Ontario in a surge of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Friday, as she announced new public health orders on gatherings that take effect Monday.
As of Dec. 20, organizers of indoor public events of all sizes are required to use the B.C. vaccine card to verify immunization for all participants, rather than just those with 50 or more people. Private New Year’s Eve parties of all sizes are not allowed, as they have been shown to be “super-spreader” events, Henry said. New Year’s Eve events must be seated only, with no mingling or dancing.
Also off until at least Jan. 31 are sports tournaments, after a rugby tournament on Vancouver Island led to much of the early spread of Omicron in B.C. and at universities around the country. Larger sports and entertainment events with more than 1,000 people will be limited to half capacity from Dec. 20 to Jan. 31.
For personal gatherings over the holiday season, Henry said the limit is one household plus up to 10 people, or two households, with everyone having proof of vaccination. Families with one or more unvaccinated members are not to gather outside their households. These capacity limits apply to homes and vacation rentals.
The only new restriction on B.C. restaurants is the return of strict no-mingling rules between groups. Patrons must wear masks unless they are seated at their tables, but there will be no restrictions on capacity, hours or liquor sales. Henry said holiday season gatherings are important for people’s mental health and can go ahead, either at homes or local restaurants and pubs, with fully vaccinated participants and the new restrictions.
Religious gatherings are also allowed to go ahead under existing public health rules, with full capacity allowed if all participants are fully vaccinated, and 50 per cent capacity if there are unvaccinated people attending. Strict mask and capacity rules should be enforced, at worship services as well as in stores and other public spaces heading into holiday sales, Henry said.