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Northern B.C. COVID-19 crisis brings back private home restrictions

Bars closed, household only for those not yet vaccinated
University Hospital of Northern B.C. in Prince George is one of the facilities over capacity with critically ill patients, many with COVID-19. (UBC photo)

A year ago, before vaccines were available, B.C.’s COVID-19 restrictions reached into private residences to restrict Halloween parties and other events to a “safe six” familiar people from different households.

With the surge of the Delta variant affecting regions where vaccination rates are lower, the vast area of Northern B.C. from Kitwanga to the east and Quesnel to the north is now restricting gatherings in private homes to people who have been protected with two doses of vaccine.

“Personal gatherings, both indoor and outdoor will be restricted to fully vaccinated people only,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said, announcing the new Northern Health restrictions Oct. 14. “If you are unvaccinated or have unvaccinated people in your household, you need to stay with your household only. In addition, indoor gatherings will remain restricted to five people and outdoor gatherings to 25 people, if they are all fully vaccinated.”

The Northern Health order shuts down bars and clubs that don’t have meal service and stops restaurant liquor sales at 10 p.m. until Nov. 20, when vaccination rates and pressure on northern hospitals will be reassessed. It limits indoor personal gatherings at private homes or vacation rentals to five people and outdoor gatherings to 25 people, all of whom must be fully vaccinated.

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In-person religious services are also prohibited in the affected region, although individuals can attend a place of worship one at a time. For organized public events such as sports, everyone attending must show a B.C. vaccine card, and the limit is 50 people inside and 100 people for outside events, with a safety plan for spacing and infection control.

Not included in the new restrictions are health service areas with high vaccination rates, Terrace, Kitimat, Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Stikine, Telegraph, Nisga’a and Snow Country, the remote region north of Nisga’a that includes Stewart at the Alaska border.

The Northern Health order does not include travel restrictions, but Northern Health CEO Cathy Ulrich says people are “strongly recommended” to stay in their home communities.

““We are under immense pressure in our facilities that is fuelled by an unvaccinated population,” Ulrich said. “We continue to encourage all people age 12 and up to get immunized.”

To see information on Northern Health COVID-19 immunization clinics and other resources, click here.


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