B.C.'s COVID-19 restrictions extended through May long weekend
VANCOUVER -- All of B.C.'s current COVID-19 public health orders are being extended through the May long weekend, health officials announced Monday.
That includes the bans on indoor dining at restaurants and indoor group fitness activities, both of which were announced as part of the province's slate of "circuit breaker" measures on March 29.
Premier John Horgan also revealed the government is issuing new orders under the Emergency Program Act on Friday that will restrict people's ability to travel outside of their own health authority region.
"This will be conducted through random audits not unlike roadside stops for CounterAttack during the Christmas season," Horgan said, referring to the campaign against drunk driving. "They will be random and there will be a fine if you are travelling outside of your area without a legitimate reason."
Health officials are also looking at ways to limit the number of people travelling into B.C. from other provinces for recreational reasons.
The decision to extend the existing orders another five weeks and introduce new travel restrictions comes as B.C. grapples with record-breaking numbers of coronavirus patients in hospital, a problem that has already forced health officials to strategically delay some non-emergency surgeries in the Lower Mainland.
The number of COVID-19 cases being identified per day in the province also remain high, though provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C.'s curve has been slowly bending down in recent days.
The province's rolling weekly average for new cases has dipped to 1,077 per day since reaching a record of 1,130 on April 12.
At her monthly modelling presentation Thursday, Henry revealed the province's overall reproductive rate – which measures how many additional infections are caused by each new case – has declined to almost 1.0, though some regions have made less progress than others.
Given those indicators, the government believes its current measures are having an effect, Henry said.
Those include the ongoing restrictions announced in November and December, which include a blanket ban on social gatherings indoors. People who decide to host friends or family inside their home can face fines of $2,300, and guests can be dinged hundreds of dollars each as well.
British Columbians are allowed to meet people outdoors, but only in groups of 10 or fewer. Health officials have stressed that people should see the same friends or family members consistently, and not visit different groups of 10 on different days.
The province also revealed Monday that it is preparing for the pandemic's strain on hospitals to potentially get worse as the number of people aged 40-59 falling seriously ill with COVID-19 climbs.
B.C. is already close to reaching its base capacity for hospital beds, with some health authority regions already utilizing surge beds to deal with coronavirus patients.
Using surge capacity for COVID-19 care means shifting resources away from other areas of the province's health system, officials said. As of Friday, Interior Health was already using 22 per cent of its surge beds, and Vancouver Coastal Health was using about three per cent.