B.C. is gradually easing restrictions starting with removing capacity limits and reopening bars and nightclubs just before midnight on Wednesday.
All gatherings, indoor seated events, recreation facilities, bars and restaurants will return to normal at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday. However, indoor mask use, proof of vaccination and safety plans are still in effect for now.
Premier John Horgan announced the beginning of restrictions being eased incrementally during a COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, alongside Dr. Henry and health minister Adrian Dix.
“By following public health orders and advice, we can do just about anything. These measures that have been in place to deal with the Omicron wave have been challenging for many,” said Horgan.
Henry says people and businesses are encouraged to go at their own pace, noting that this week’s lifting of restrictions is too fast for some and not quick enough for others.
“This virus continues to circulate in our community, and because we have such a high level of immunity through immunization, for most people doesn’t lead to serious illness or hospitalization. We need to respect that people need to go at their own pace, and businesses will need to go at their own pace, depending on their own risk,” said Henry, adding that immunization campaigns will continue.
The remaining COVID-19 public health measures will be reviewed on March 15th and April 12th, including school guidelines and long-term care visitation restrictions.
Health officials will also review mask use, the BC Vaccine Card, COVID-19 safety plans, faith community guidelines, restrictions on youth overnight camps, and industrial camp orders.
Henry says transmission and hospitalization numbers are down due to people getting vaccinated and following health measures.
“We are in the place that we are, and we’ve made these decisions based on the best science, based on the data that we have of what’s happening in British Columbia, right now,” said Henry.
She says the province is shifting its COVID-19 response to a long-term management strategy that focuses on immunizations, self-management, and actions made to protect people at high risk of infection.
“Our goals remain the same. To minimize the number of serious illness and people dying of COVID-19 and to protect our healthcare system, and importantly, to minimize societal disruption.”
As of Monday, 55 per cent of children in B.C. have received their first vaccine dose, Henry said. Over 90 per cent of British Columbians are fully vaccinated, and half of the population has gotten their booster shot.