VICTORIA, B.C. – After B.C. shattered its daily COVID-19 record on Thursday, the province’s top doctor announced that visitations to long-term care homes will be limited to those deemed essential.

This health measure will come into effect on Saturday.

Dr. Bonnie Henry made the announcement Friday during a COVID-19 briefing alongside Health Minister Adrian Dix, and Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead of B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Program.

“We know that this is the place we’ve been before, and we have many measures in place. We need to decrease the numbers of people coming into our long-term care homes so that we can best protect the seniors and elders, and ensure the healthcare workers in those settings are able to manage and cope,” said Henry in the final briefing of 2021.

She notes that this health measure will be in place for the shortest amount of time possible, and all restrictions in place will be reviewed on January 18th.

The province is prioritizing booster shots for pregnant women, who can receive the dose six months after their second dose.

The isolation period for vaccinated people who tested positive for COVID-19 has been reduced to five days if they show no symptoms. People have to wear masks for five additional days following isolation.

Unvaccinated people must isolate for 10 days.

Dr. Ballem says B.C. residents aged 60 and older can now receive a booster shot six months after their second shot.

Over 900,000 boosters have been administered so far, Ballem said.

She added that there were 8,400 open spots available Friday out of 720 locations providing vaccinations in the province, and around 240,000 people who have been invited for their booster have not responded.

“As dr. Henry has said, it will protect you. It will protect you against severe illness related to Omicron. We really want to get everyone boosted that is eligible in our province,” said Ballem.

The province is also moving to a interval based booster shot process, with the goal to give everyone the third shot six months after their second.

British Columbia reported 4,383 new cases of COVID-19 since Thursday, bringing the active case count to 17,357.

The Northern Health region added 122 cases Thursday, moving the active case count to 422.