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Everything you need to know about B.C.'s new COVID-19 self-isolation rules

'This is a risk mitigation strategy,' B.C.'s top doctor said.

B.C.'s top doctor has announced sweeping changes to the province's guidance on coronavirus self-isolation rules — but only for vaccinated individuals. 

Fully vaccinated British Columbians will no longer have to self-isolate for seven days, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters in a press briefing Friday (Dec. 31). Now, they are required to self-isolate for five days.

But that rule does not apply to partially vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals, emphasized Henry. They must isolate for a full 10 days from the start of their symptoms or from when they received a positive test.

"If you are unvaccinated, we continue to say that you must isolate for 10 days from [when] your symptoms began or when your test was positive," she said. "There is no change to this."

The health officer added, however, that fully vaccinated individuals must no longer have symptoms before they stop self-isolating, such as fever. 

"After five days, if your symptoms have resolved or mostly improved, you can go back to activities in the community wearing a mask for additional five days."

Henry noted that people must continue to take precautions as "this is a risk mitigation strategy" and it "doesn't mean that every single person will be through their infectious period." 

Health officials are seeing a shorter incubation period with the Omicron variant, which means that individuals are infected earlier — from one to two days before their symptoms start — and that the illness tends to resolve more quickly.

"So that's the reason why we're now reducing it to five days," said Henry. "But it doesn't mean that you can go visit on long-term care. You need to be very careful about not going to gatherings for that additional five days. Wearing a mask when you're around other people to make sure that you're taking all the additional precautions."

Fully vaccinated individuals who do not have symptoms do not need to be tested after an exposure but they must not attend social gatherings and they must continue to wear a face mask, Henry underscored. They must also self-monitor for symptoms for seven days following the event.

How do I self-isolate or self-monitor? Visit the BC Centre for Disease Control's self-isolation and self-monitoring guide online.