Concern for rapid COVID-19 spread prevents B.C. from lifting restrictions: Dr. Henry

VICTORIA — British Columbia isn’t at the point where public health restrictions can be lifted with concerns about the potential for the rapid spread of COVID-19, the province’s top doctor says.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said she understands the desire to see restrictions lifted on rules like the limit on social gatherings, but concerns over the province’s rising rolling seven-day average of cases means the indefinite restrictions put in place earlier this month will stay.

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"There’s potential for rapid growth if we’re not careful," she told a news conference.

B.C. reported 395 cases of COVID-19 and 10 new deaths on Thursday.

Close to 240,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C. so far, including more than 68,000 people who received their second shot.

As B.C. works to identify the more than 120 cases of COVID-19 variants across the province, Henry said health authorities are ramping up the screening for them. Its aim is to test 100 per cent of all positive samples to see if they are likely variants that should be sent on for further testing. Ontario and Quebec already screen all positive cases for variants.

Henry expressed confidence in limiting the spread of the variant cases, even though one-quarter of the variant cases diagnosed in B.C. have not yet been traced back to their origin.

"The things we do to prevent transmission works against these variants as well, which is why we all have to continue doing what we're doing," she said.

The majority of COVID-19 cases are spread through workplace interactions, Henry said, but part of limiting transmission includes staying close to home during the upcoming March break.

Henry also spoke of the challenges she's faced during the pandemic, including new death threats and the impact they have had on her family and co-workers.

"It's one of the things that have been incredibly challenging," she said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the threats and personal attacks directed at Henry are "completely unacceptable."

"I condemn them utterly," he said. "We all have to find ways to disagree without personal attack."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021.

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