COVID-19 health orders that limit gatherings to vaccinated people in part of B.C. extended indefinitely
File image: A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
VANCOUVER -- COVID-19 health orders have been extended indefinitely in a part of B.C. that's seeing higher case rates per capita and lower vaccination uptake.
In an update last week, Northern Health announced its orders that cover most of the region were being extended.
"At this time, NH Medical Health Officers have determined there remains a need for regional public health measures to limit transmission, reduce case counts and reduce rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in the north," the health authority's statement said.
The orders were implemented on Oct. 14 and would have expired on Nov. 19. However, the expiry was removed, with the health authority saying the "measures will remain in effect pending further assessment of the region’s COVID-19 status."
The orders, initially referred to as a "circuit breaker," restrict indoor and outdoor personal gatherings to fully vaccinated people.
"If you are unvaccinated or have unvaccinated people in your households, then you need to stay with your household only," Dr. Bonnie Henry said when she announced the measures on Oct. 14.
The restrictions apply to the entire Northern Health region with the exception of the local health areas west of Kitwanga, including Terrace, Kitimat, Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Stikine, Telegraph, Snow Country and the Nisga’a areas.
Even among vaccinated people, personal indoor gatherings are restricted to five people and outdoor gatherings to 25. Bars and nightclubs are closed and restaurants that offer full meal services may serve alcohol, but they must stop that service at 10 p.m.
When the orders were first introduced, Henry said she hoped two COVID-19 incubation periods would be long enough to relieve pressure on the local health-care system. But as a whole, Northern Health is still seeing the highest rate of new cases per 100,000 residents in the province. The region is also seeing lower vaccination rates than other parts of B.C.
"Vaccination is the best line of defence against COVID-19," Northern Health's notice said.
"While immunization rates continue to increase in larger centres across the north, some parts of the region still have some of the lowest vaccination rates in B.C."
Regional health orders in Fraser East and Interior Health also remain in place. A full list of current orders is available on the province's website.