B.C. restrictions on gatherings to continue through Christmas holidays

The province has extended a ban on all social gatherings and events, including in homes, until Jan. 8, continuing existing restrictions throughout the Christmas season.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that means there can be no extended family coming over for dinner.

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“We cannot afford to have a rebound and have increased numbers of people being sick and ending up in hospital,” Henry said. “In the next few weeks we need to hold the line and continue to bend our curve.”

Island Health recorded 45 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend as part of 2,020 new cases in the province, said Henry.

The province also announced 35 new deaths over the weekend, including the death of a patient in Island Health related to the outbreak at Saanich Peninsula Hospital, where 12 people — seven patients and five staff — have been infected. Its president, Kathy MacNeil, sent condolences to family and friends and gratitude to health care workers.

A total of 527 people have died of COVID-19 since the first death in B.C. on March 8.

Say no to family gatherings, parties and non-essential travel, Henry said.

“I understand that for many of us, this will mean celebrating the coming important holidays in a different and smaller way than what we may be used to,” said Henry. “We can, though, still be festive. We can still connect with family and with friends in a safe and virtual way.”

There are some exceptions to the restrictions, including drive-through and drive-in events where people may, for example, view holiday lights and decorations without getting out of their cars, or to drop off goods for charity, such as toy drives. A maximum of 50 cars are allowed.

However, restrictions on adult team sports and group fitness remain in place, Henry said.

“We can’t lose sight of the fact that we continue to have very high levels of transmission and community spread here in British Columbia,” said Henry.

Hospitalizations that involve COVID are peaking, said Henry. There are now 349 people in hospital in B.C. because of COVID-19, including 10 in Island Health. Of those in hospital in the province, 77 are in intensive or critical care, including four in Island Health.

“Hundreds of people that are in hospitals across the province right now are receiving the care they need in a safe way, but it is straining our system,” said Henry.

Restrictions are having an effect but “transmission remains high and we need to continue our efforts to reduce social interactions and stop the spread,” said Henry.

On Monday, the province announced 647 new cases Friday through Saturday, 726 Saturday through Sunday, 647 Sunday through Monday. Of the new cases: 1,362 are in Fraser Health, 304 in Vancouver Coastal, 45 in Island Health, 203 in Interior Health, and 106 in Northern Health.

There are now 9,380 active cases in B.C. and 10, 747 isolating being monitored for the virus. On the Island there are 199 active cases — 101 in the central Island, 67 in the south and 31 in the north.

“We have to adapt, we have to be resilient, and we have to support each other with compassion, especially now,” said Henry.

There are outbreaks in 57 long-term care and assisted living homes, including 1,073 residents who are infected, and eight outbreaks in acute-care facilities.

Henry announced six new health-care facility outbreaks on Monday, none of them in Island Health. There is also a new community outbreak in a mink farm in Fraser Health which is of “great concern,” said Henry, because in other parts of the world, most recently in Denmark and prior to that the Netherlands and the United States, cases in mink farms “where there has been transmission from humans to mink and back.”

There have been 38,152 recorded cases of COVID-19 in B.C., and 27,287 people have recovered.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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