Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has announced wide-ranging new rules for controlling the spread of COVID-19.
The new orders and guidelines come as another 538 cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in B.C., and one more person has died. As of Thursday, there are 6,929 active cases of the virus across the province — the highest total to date — including a record high 217 patients in the hospital, of whom 59 are in intensive care.
Henry is extending an earlier order limiting social gatherings in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions until Dec. 7 and making it apply provincewide.
She’s also asked Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth to implement a requirement for workers and members of the public to wear face coverings in all indoor public spaces, except when eating or drinking starting on Thursday. It does not include schools.
Other measures include:
All indoor and outdoor community and social events suspended for the next two weeks, also in-person faith services.
No spectators allowed at any indoor or outdoor sport, and no travelling outside the local community for sports.
Businesses are being asked to suspend any returns to the office for employees who’ve been working at home and to re-evaluate whether safety plans are appropriate and being followed.
Inspections of businesses and enforcement of public health orders are being stepped up.
Officials are asking everyone not to travel outside their communities for non-essential reasons and asking people from other provinces to postpone their trips here.
Funerals, weddings and baptisms are permitted as long as fewer than 10 people are involved and there is no reception.
Medical group meetings including addiction support sessions are permitted as long as COVID safety plans are in place.
Regional orders on social gatherings were originally implemented for a two-week period on Nov. 7 in a bid to curb B.C.’s rapidly climbing case count, but numbers have only continued to spike since then.
Despite the discouraging news, Henry said there is a light at the end of the tunnel, with increasingly positive news about vaccines or even multiple vaccines.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Adrian Dix said B.C. has hired an additional 702 contact tracers, and there are more than 100 people who’ve received offers to join the team, along with 434 who are being interviewed.