B.C. hasn't decided how long restrictions may be extended, health minister says
VANCOUVER -- While it looks increasingly likely that at least some of B.C.'s temporary COVID-19 restrictions will be extended past Monday, officials have not decided how long they'll remain in place.
That's according to Health Minister Adrian Dix, who said the government has been reviewing the measures on a daily basis as coronavirus case numbers and hospitalizations climbed in the province.
"You don't want measures to be in place longer than they need to be in place, so they're reviewed every day," Dix told reporters on Wednesday.
The government announced the latest restrictions on March 29, with the intention of potentially lifting them on April 19 – but they were not enough to prevent B.C.'s third wave of the pandemic from breaking several records, including for COVID-19 patients in intensive care.
A number of restaurant industry groups met with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Tuesday, and said they left with the impression that the ban on indoor dining would continue into May – even as late as the Victoria Day long weekend.
Dix said that Henry had "indicated, in general, her direction" when it comes to restrictions at the meeting, but said the government has not made a final decision on a new timeline.
British Columbians are expected to get an update on restrictions Thursday, when Henry gives her monthly COVID-19 modelling presentation.
On Monday, the province had a record 121 coronavirus patients in intensive care, and as of Tuesday, there were a total of 377 patients hospitalized with the disease – just shy of the record of 381 set on Jan. 6.
Dix said health officials are expecting the number of hospitalizations to continue to climb in the coming days. He called hospitalizations a "lag indicator," meaning they reflect case numbers that were recorded several days prior.
Last week, B.C. reported COVID-19 cases in excess of 1,200 on three days in a row. The province had never topped 1,000 infections in a day before March 31.
There has been a slight dip in case numbers in recent days, however, and Dix said there has also been a decline in the province's test-positivity rate.
"But we're still way above where we need to be," he added.
Last weekend, the increasing number of hospitalizations also forced health officials to divert surgical staff to COVID-19 care, resulting in a handful of delayed operations.
But Dix stressed that the province is not facing a repeat of last March, when all scheduled elective surgeries were put on pause.