Gyms are to reopen gradually in BC, but indoor organized gatherings are still banned: the province

Gyms and gyms throughout BC will be allowed to begin gradually reopening from January 20, the province announced Tuesday in an update on public health restrictions.

Other previous restrictions, including the ban on indoor organized gatherings such as wedding and funeral receptions, will be extended until February 16.

Bars, nightclubs and lounges must remain closed and 50 percent capacity limits are still in place for restaurants, theaters and stadiums.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she made the decision to extend those restrictions based on the current rate of transmission and hospitalizations, which have been at their highest point since the pandemic began during Omicron.

“We are still in a pandemic as much as we would like to be over it,” she said during a news conference.

When the gyms reopen, vaccine cards are required and capacity limits will be in place. People inside must be separated from each other, with masks encouraged to those who train and required for coaches.

Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry at a COVID-19 public briefing in Victoria on Friday. (Mike McArthur / CBC)

Healthcare professionals are preparing for the increase in the number of hospital patients

The restrictions were not introduced until the end of December, when the province tried to slow down the spread of the Omicron variant.

Modeling data presented Friday showed that community transfer is now declining in most health regions across BC, but health officials said the province is likely to see a jump in admissions over the next week or two as there is a delay between new infections and patients ending up in the hospital.

Representatives of doctors and nurses this week said their members is already on the verge of collapse after two years under pressure from a pandemic.

Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health issued a joint statement Tuesday, saying it has been “a challenge” to remain fully staffed and maintain full health care when it comes to surgeries, specialized programs and rural areas.

“Healthcare professionals have been at the forefront of care throughout the pandemic now for two years and are experiencing fatigue and the same illness as the rest of the population,” it read.

VCH said it has postponed 154 non-emergency surgeries over the past month because it does not have enough operating rooms, while Fraser Health has relocated 128.

Henry’s updated public health order said that “the stress that public health and health care is currently under pressure and the impact this has on the provision of health care to the population” was a factor in her decision to extend restrictions.

Other agencies, such as BC Ferries, continue to warn the public about a drop in service as staff report sick.

BC reported 819 people in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Monday, including 99 on intensive care.

The new figures represented an increase of 173 COVID-19 patients admitted within the last three days, including a further four patients in the intensive care unit.

Antiviral treatment on the way to BC

She says BC expects to receive 4,000 doses this week of COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid, which is designed to help the body fight a COVID-19 infection.

Henry said Health Canada is also looking at approving two other vaccines, including one made from tobacco plants.

However, she warned that people who persist in alternatives to mRNA vaccines should know that the treatments will not be available for some time, while Omicron continues to spread rapidly and sick people, especially those who are unvaccinated.

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