Holiday gatherings will be strictly limited this year as pandemic measures remain in place until Jan. 8 because of high case numbers, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday.
“We can still be festive, we can still connect with family and with friends in a safe and virtual way,” Henry said. “The sacrifices we make now will protect our loved ones and countless others throughout the province and keep our strained health-care system open and functioning.”
But traditional in-person gatherings with extended family will be prohibited.
Orders limiting social gatherings to one’s immediate household, with some exceptions for people who live alone, will remain in place until the New Year, Henry said.
Public outdoor events and in-person faith gatherings also remain banned until Jan. 8.
The extensions mean that Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations need to be limited to people within your immediate household and travel outside your community should be avoided unless absolutely essential.
Henry noted there are some exceptions for drive-in events like movies or drive-through toy collection or Christmas light tours, but that each car may only contain one household.
B.C. tallied 2,020 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, or about 673 per day, which is consistent with case counts from the last two weeks. COVID-19 claimed 35 lives in that period.
Fraser Health region accounted for 1,362 of those cases, and surges in Northern and Interior communities where outbreaks had not previously taken hold are popping up as well.
“We continue to have very high levels of community spread and transmission in British Columbia,” said Henry, noting that cases are levelling off. “This means what you are doing every day is making a difference. We are not yet through this storm.”
Henry said the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive in B.C. as early as next week and will be earmarked for seniors and long-term care and frontline health workers. The province is already receiving specialized containers from Pfizer that allow the vaccine to be stored at the required -70 C.
“Our efforts and our sacrifices are making a difference, and we can’t let that go now, particularly as we know things like a vaccine are so close.”
While the few doses expected before the New Year and in the early months of 2021 won’t stop community spread, Henry hopes they will help curb deaths and hospitalizations until broader distribution is possible.
In the meantime, the province is also investigating how rapid testing could help in screening staff and visitors at long-term care facilities through a pilot project.
“We can’t intuit where this virus is,” said Henry. “It is so challenging this time of year when the virus is spreading so rapidly.”