Provincial health officials announced new circuit breaker restrictions on Thursday to curb COVID-19 transmission in the north.
As of midnight on Thursday, personal indoor and outdoor gatherings will be restricted to fully vaccinated people only. Each household will be limited to five people and only 25 people will be allowed to gather outdoors.
Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the restrictions on Thursday during a COVID-19 update along with Health Minister Adrian Dix.
Religious gatherings will be limited to virtual services only, restaurants will be required to stop alcohol service at 10 p.m., and bars that don’t provide food services will be closed.
Organized events will require a safety plan, mandatory masks, and everyone must be vaccinated.
Sporting events will continue at 50 per cent capacity, indoor organized events will be limited to 50 people, and organized outdoor events can allow up to 100 people.
“We are enabling this circuit breaker to save lives,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry during the COVID-19 update.
The restrictions will remain in effect until November 19th.
“We are doing this to stop transmission where it is greatest and that is those indoor gatherings where we are coming together where we’re not necessarily wearing masks, where we’re mixing with unvaccinated people and this is where we’re seeing spread.”
The province also encourages residents in the north to stay within their community unless necessary.
For Remembrance Day ceremonies, Henry says they won’t be limited to vaccinated people only but urges to “keep it small.”
“We’ve worked with the legions across B.C. and the Yukon last year and again this year. Keep it small, invite-only immunized people to come, and others to watch it on TV or in a small place by themselves.”
Henry also announced that one person in their 20s died in the northern health region on Thursday.
“We know this virus right now is spreading rapidly and we take the risk from where we come, we take it with us when we’re travelling, we bring it into that community, and we take that risk home with us,” said Henry.
An area west of Kitwanga, including Terrace, was exempt from the circuit breaker restrictions due to high vaccination rates.
Health Minister Dix mentioned that 25 patients had been transferred from the Peace region to B.C. hospitals in the south. In total, 58 patients have been transferred out of the north to hospitals in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
“We need to take steps together to reduce transmission in the north,” said Dix.
“We are all in. We have thrown everything in but the kitchen sink and the kitchen sink went in a week ago.”
He notes that Fort St. John has had the highest increase in vaccination rates in the north.
According to Northern Health’s community immunization report, 73 per cent of those eligible for a vaccine in Fort St. John have received their first dose and 60 per cent were given both doses. The dose counts are up one per cent from last week.
Out of a population of 22,472 in the city, 16,357 people have at least one dose and 13,529 have had their second dose.
The single-dose rate in Dawson Creek went from 65 per cent last week to 66 per cent this week, and the two-dose rate climbed from 55 to 56 per cent.
The lowest coverage rates in the north last week were in the rural areas of Peace River North and South, and they still trail behind the rest of the region.
Peace River North Rural’s single-dose vaccination rate went from 48 to 49 per cent. The two-dose rate increased from 40 to 41 per cent.
Peace River South Rural’s one-dose rate rose from 54 to 55 per cent, while the percentage of residents with both doses now sits at 46 per cent, one point higher than last week.
Last month, the province’s vaccine passport came into effect and is required for many non-essential indoor activities. Anyone aged 12 and older is required to show proof of at least one dose until October 24th when people will be required to be fully vaccinated to access certain services.
The new Northern Health orders can be viewed below: