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Health officials relax COVID-19 event and social gathering restrictions

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Many COVID-19 restrictions will be relaxed by B.C.’s premier and health officials this week.

In an announcement Tuesday, Premier John Horgan said restrictions on social gatherings and events will be lifted on Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. This will allow for restaurants, bars and nightclubs to operate at full capacity with vaccine cards and masks.

Dancing will also be able to return.

Indoor personal gatherings, organized gatherings, indoor seated events and fitness centres and adults sports, dance and swimming will also go back to full capacity with vaccine cards and masks.

COVID safety plans at businesses will also need to be in place.

B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said they will incrementally reduce the remaining restrictions. They include masks, vaccine cards and long-term care home visitations. Restrictions will be reviewed prior to spring break on Mar. 15 and Easter on Apr. 12.

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“We are shifting our response to a long-term COVID-19 management strategy,” she said. “Focusing our attention on the things we do for ourselves based on our own risk.”

Officials said they are expecting people and businesses to go at their own rate in making changes as restrictions are lifted.

“We know that for some people what we’re doing today will be really fast and will make them uncomfortable,” Henry said. “We know as well for others it’s not fast enough.”

The province’s top doctor said the lifting of restrictions is possible because of vaccine numbers along with dropping rates of transmission and hospitalizations in the province. She says they are now shifting to a “sustainable” long-term management plan.

Henry said being ready for more variants of COVID-19 will be necessary for the future.

“But we also need to move into recovery as we’re in this transition phase,” she said. “We are not out of this pandemic in British Columbia, in Canada or globally. We know there will be continuous pressure on this virus to mutate into a new variant, a variant that may cause more serious illness.”

Henry said a balance of restrictions will be key to moving forward and minimizing societal disruption.

Vaccine campaigns will still continue and new vaccines including the NovaVax vaccine may be available in the future, according to health officials.

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