(Files by Catherine Garrett-MyPGNow)
On the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 being declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, Doctor Bonnie Henry has eased restrictions around outdoor social gatherings.
Individuals are allowed to gather in groups of ten, she says, however it must be the same ten contacts each time.
“This is slowly turning the dial, it is not flipping the switch,” she explained.
“You can meet friends outside, and have a coffee, a chat a connection. Have a picnic in a park with your grandparents.”
Kids can now have playdates outdoors with friends, but people are still encouraged to keep their distance.
Indoor gatherings are still banned, as they are responsible for high rates of transmission, says Henry.
“It’s been a challenging year for us all and now is the time again to redouble our efforts and remember to be kind to each other. Hold your loved ones close,” she said.
Meanwhile, on and offsite alcohol sales on St. Patricks Day are barred after eight pm, and will resume the next morning.
The province also released updating modelling detailing the toll COVID-19 has taken over the last year.
As of March, case rates have been steadily increasing, says Henry, however deaths and hospitalizations have stabilizing and are decreasing.
“We have seen our peak was sometime in early December, we’ve come down since then, but we are starting to see a little bit of an upswing again,” She said.
“We have been on a steady downward trend until about the middle of February. Since then, we’ve started to climb up again slowly and steadily.”
She says most cases at the moment are a result of local clusters.
“There has been no part of our province that has been spared from this,” said Henry.
Two age groups, 19-39 and 40 to 59 continue to drive the highest transmission rates in the province.
Henry points to indoor workplaces where proper distance can’t be implemented, and other crowded settings as a reason for this.
To date, 10 cases of Multi-Inflammatory Syndrome in Children have been detected, including two in Northern Health.
She also says about 6% of people above 18 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Across Canada, 14,000 ‘excess deaths’ were found, almost all linked to COVID-19 — this lead to a 5 per cent increase in expected deaths.
The virus was identified as the 8th leading cause of death for the province, and the 11th highest for ‘potential years of life lost.’
Henry also noted the toll the overdose crisis has taken in BC — it’s currently the fifth leading cause of death, and second-highest for potential years of life lost.
Meaning the pandemic has had a profound effect on the elderly, and the overdose crisis has in turn affected the younger population.
In the United States COVID-19 was reported to be the third, as the country saw a 15 percent increase in ‘excess deaths,’ the highest since the 1918 pandemic.