Residents within B.C.’s Northern Health region face new restrictions amid a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Thursday new restrictions on gatherings will go into effect Sept. 7 — the same day B.C. officials hoped to transition to Step 4 of its four-step reopening plan.
Amid rising cases and hospitalizations, provincial officials said last month it would not meet its Step 4 goal and B.C. would remain in Step 3 of its reopening plan for the time being.
“Sadly, we’ve seen transmissions that have taken off in a number of communities where we have pockets of people who are unvaccinated,” Henry said during a briefing Thursday, adding unvaccinated residents in the region face a six times increased risk of infection.
“This has really exploded quite quickly in a number of communities.”
The new restrictions come as the region reported 103 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.
Residents of the province’s northernmost health region will be limited to home gatherings of either one additional family or five guests.
Outdoor personal gatherings will be restricted to a maximum of 50 people, and will require a COVID-19 safety plan to be put in place.
Henry added that the spike in cases have not been linked to local restaurants and fitness centres. The new restrictions will also not apply to places of worship or schools.
“I don’t think we’ve maxed out the people who are willing to be vaccinated. We’ve changed our strategies,” Henry said.
The province is set to roll out a B.C. vaccine card on Sept.13.
Visitors will be required to display their vaccine certificate at restaurants, concerts and sports events, among other locations, to be granted entry. The B.C. vaccine card does not apply to retail locations.
Some businesses have said they will not enforce the new vaccine certificates.
A link will be provided to British Columbians with their proof of vaccination ahead of the Sept. 13 launch of the certificates that people can save onto their phones to show businesses.
Those unable to show proof of vaccination online will be given “a secure alternative option,” according to the government.
Full details of the B.C. vaccine card are expected to be unveiled on Sept. 7.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said Thursday that the biggest jump in vaccinations following the announcement of the B.C. vaccine card came in the Northern health region, followed by the Interior health region.
Last month the province introduced new restrictions within the Interior health region, including the closure of bars and nightclubs, and reduced capacity for indoor gatherings, amid a spike of COVID-19 cases.