New measures will be introduced at B.C. restaurants, bars and nightclubs amid rising COVID-19 numbers, according to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix.
Thirty-four new cases were announced in the province on Wednesday, bringing its total to 3,362. No new deaths were announced.
B.C. saw a spike in new infections over the weekend, with 102 new confirmed cases between Friday and Monday, and 30 more on Tuesday. Henry said that 70 cases have now been linked to events and parties in the Kelowna area over the past several weeks.
Under the new measures, all patrons in restaurants, bars and nightclubs will be required to be seated, alcohol self-service will not be available (that means no ordering from the bar), and dance floors will be closed.
Henry also emphasized that groups at restaurants should be limited to six, and patrons should not be pushing tables together or engaging in behaviour that puts staff at risk.
“The B.C. COVID-19 curve is trending in a direction we don’t want it to go — upwards,” said Henry.
“There are close to 1,000 British Columbians self-isolating at home;. This means people are unable to work, see friends, enjoy the summer.”
Henry said the current focus is to support the people currently in self-isolation, some of whom are likely to contract COVID-19 in the coming week.
But she said she does not believe the province moved into Phase 3 of its gradual reopening too quickly, although B.C. residents do need to renew their commitment to keep gatherings small and maintain physical distancing.
“We have been very measured. It is not surprising to me as people are travelling more, that we have more cases. People are getting together with small groups, but different groups every night,” she said.
“We need people to start paying attention again. Every time you meet a group of new people, you’re exposing yourself to new risk. We need to get on top of it.”
Responding to questions about images that circulated of a large crowd of people drumming and dancing close together on a Vancouver beach Tuesday night, Henry said that while the risk of spread is lower outside, people should still be gathering in smaller groups.
“We don’t want lots of people to crowd together for periods of time, having close conversations. It’s not zero risk outside. Keep a safe distance from other small groups. Then you can enjoy the beach, you can enjoy the water, the sunsets around B.C.,” she said.
“Each of us needs to do our piece to make that happen. Contact tracing three or four people is much easier than tracing 20-30 people. With each additional person, the time they have to develop symptoms increases risk.”
Dix said that while large outdoor gatherings often garner significant public attention, the majority of residents are adhering to public health advice.
Henry said younger people tend to experience milder symptoms, but some people experience prolonged symptoms and can be ill for a very long time.
“Even people who have milder illness [can have] a prolonged recovery that takes weeks — profound tiredness, weakness, shortness of breath. Even if you feel young and healthy and [think] you’re going to be fine, there are people in their 20s and 30s who have died from this,” she said.