New, targeted restriction measures go into effect in Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions for the next two weeks in an effort to knock back a “dangerous” increase in cases of the novel coronavirus.
The restrictions include no indoor social gathering of any size with anyone other than your immediate household.
In an extraordinary Saturday news conference, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced measures aimed at B.C.’s most populous health regions where test positive COVID-19 cases have spiked because of indoor social gatherings and other indoor activities.
The new orders include a requirement to immediately stop group physical indoor activities such as yoga, dance and spin classes at businesses or public recreation centres until new physical distancing plans are approved by a health officer. Indoor sports such as boxing, martial arts and hockey where distancing can’t be maintained are also suspended.
Henry also called on businesses to ensure all workers are being actively screened for COVID-19 and businesses have in place appropriate distancing measures and the use of masks where appropriate. She said there will be increased monitoring and inspections by health officials.
Henry is also strongly recommending to not travel into or out of Vancouver Coastal or Fraser Health regions unless for essential purposes, similar to guidance in place in March when COVID-19 cases first spiked.
The orders and recommended measures announced by Henry do not apply to Hope, the Central Coast and the Bella Coola region.
“I know this is hard. I know we don’t want to have to be doing this. And we need to support each other right now to make this break,” said Henry. “These efforts are critical to keeping our businesses, our schools open, and our community safe as we go into winter.”
Test-positive COVID-19 cases have rapidly increased over the past two weeks, nearly 3,000 new cases in the past week alone, most of them in Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health regions.
On Saturday, Henry announced another 567 test positive cases, 411 in the Fraser Health region and 122 in Vancouver Coastal Health. On Friday, there had been a record 589 cases. The rate of positive coronavirus test results has also been spiking — to greater than four per cent from a low of less than one per cent in the summer. In the Fraser Health region it is now more than seven per cent.
The rapid increase puts the province into territory where the increase is exponential rather than linear, acknowledged Henry.
Hospitalizations are also on the rise, although death rates have not risen dramatically.
Some countries, such as Australia, have successfully knocked back case numbers by implementing more restrictive measures that include out-of-country travel bans and restrictions on interstate travel. In the state of Victoria, home to Melbourne in southeastern Australia, it is mandatory to wear masks in public. B.C. health officials have not made masks mandatory.
After its success, Australia is considering lifting some restrictions. In the past week, Australia has averaged just under nine cases a day. Adjusted for population, that rate would be equivalent to less than two cases a day in B.C.
In response to questions from reporters, Henry said provincial health officials were carefully watching what was happening in places such as Australia but would stick with the measures in B.C. that had worked in the past to decrease the rate of COVID-19 cases.
Health Minister Adrian Dix noted that B.C. levels of transmission and mortality have continued to be lower than other jurisdictions in North America, including the United States, and countries in Europe such as Belgium, France and Switzerland.
“That said, we need to take focused and urgent action now to bring down the rate of transmission across Metro Vancouver health authorities,” said Dix. “Not doing so will have serious consequences for all of us.”
AIM TO TAME COVID-19
New provincial health orders are in place for all individuals, places of work and businesses across the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health regions, with the exception of Hope, the central coast and the Bella Coola Valley.
The orders go into effect on Saturday, Nov. 7, at 10 p.m. and run until Monday, Nov. 23, at 3 p.m.
• No indoor social gatherings of any size with anyone other than your immediate household.
• Funerals and weddings may proceed with immediate household, but no associated receptions inside or outside your home, or at any public or community-based venue.
• Party buses and group limousines must stop operating until further notice.
• Indoor group physical activities such as yoga, spin classes and dance must stop until updated COVID-19 safety plans have been approved by a local health officer. Sports such as boxing, martial arts and hockey are also suspended. Gyms remain open, provided physical distancing protocols are followed.
• All travel for sports, into or out of these regions, is suspended.
• All businesses and work sites must conduct active daily screening of all on-site workers using their COVID-19 safety plans.
• Workplaces must ensure all workers and customers maintain physical distance, wear masks where appropriate, and be especially vigilant in small office spaces, break rooms and kitchens.
— Source: B.C. Ministry of Health
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