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Visitor restrictions back at B.C.'s long-term care homes as COVID-19 cases spike

Vancouver -

The B.C. government is once again imposing visitor restrictions in long-term care homes as the province grapples with unprecedented levels of COVID-19 transmission.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said only essential visitors will be allowed in long-term care facilities as of Jan. 1, citing a recent increase in outbreaks in those settings.

"We need to decrease the numbers of people coming into our long-term care homes so we can best protect the seniors and elders ... and ensure that workers in those settings are able to manage and cope," Henry said.

The restriction will remain in place until Jan. 18 at the earliest, at which point health officials will be re-evaluating a number of measures implemented to combat the rapid surge in COVID-19 cases that began earlier this month.

"This will be a measure that we'll have in place for as short a period of time as possible," Henry said.

Over the last two weeks, since the arrival of the Omicron variant, B.C.'s seven-day average for COVID-19 infections has increased five-fold. That has recently led to a resurgence in health-care facility outbreaks, including at eight long-term care homes.

The latest facilities added to the list are New Vista Care Centre, Chartwell Langley Gardens, Chartwell Carlton Gardens, Chartwell Crescent Gardens and Guildford Seniors Village, all located in the Fraser Health region.

Henry said while most of the fully vaccinated people catching COVID-19 are experiencing mild symptoms, the explosion in cases is still forcing many people off the job and putting more pressure on the province's already strained hospitals and care homes.

"The illness that we're seeing, particularly in health-care workers, is starting to have impacts on our health-care system," she said.

Officials decided to bring back a temporary ban on non-essential visitors in long-term care as it's become apparent people can transmit the latest iteration of the virus "very rapidly, even with very mild symptoms," Henry said.

Meanwhile, the province has shortened the minimum period of self-isolation required for fully vaccinated B.C. residents who catch COVID-19, citing other emerging data that most people are getting better more quickly than earlier in the pandemic.

The government is also ramping up its COVID-19 vaccine booster program, with an aim of getting everyone their third dose within about six months of their second. Top Stories

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