Some B.C. COVID restrictions could lift by mid-February

Looking to lift restrictions

UPDATE: 1:40 p.m.

If B.C. continues to see a decrease in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the coming weeks, some restrictions on social gatherings could be lifted by Family Day.

On the two-year anniversary of B.C.'s first identified COVID-19 case, Dr. Bonnie Henry provided a recap Friday of the province's pandemic over the past two years.

On Jan. 28, 2020, the province first announced that a man in his 40s had returned to B.C. from Wuhan, China and tested positive for COVID-19.

Since then, the province has seen five separate waves of COVID-19 over the past two years, with a total of 318,906 positive tests. The current Omicron-driven wave has caused the highest level of active cases and hospitalizations the province has seen.

“Each of these waves have had their unique challenges and our response has adapted to that. We have made extraordinary societal efforts and these efforts have saved countless lives,” Dr. Henry said.

“We have been on an incredibly long and arduous journey, and no, I didn't think we'd be on this phase of the journey for this long, but it is the reality that we have to accept.”

With the current widespread transmission of the Omicron variant in the province, Dr. Henry once again noted that contact tracing is no longer an effective tool to control the virus, and B.C.'s testing has been overwhelmed.

“Because the virus has changed, we needed to reset our control strategies,” she said. “Contact tracing is not something that works with this degree of spread and it's not possible to test everyone, so we need to focus our testing on those people who need it most.”

But she noted that new case counts have been recently decreasing, and she hopes the province is seeing a peak in hospitalizations. With this, she hopes to be able to lift some COVID-19 restrictions by Family Day.

“People have a level of immunity because we've stepped up for booster doses ... if we are continuing on this trajectory then yes, I do hope that we will be able to lift some of those restrictions and gradually get back to those needed connections,” Dr. Henry said.

“We can look ahead to a time when we have enough immunity and we have enough control that we can start to open up again, and we can take these extraordinary measures away ... We're looking towards the middle of February, Family Day, when we can start to get back to doing some more things again.”

Data shared during Friday's press conference shows the success B.C. has had in reducing deaths and hospitalizations by COVID-19 compared to other provinces. Currently, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths per 100,000 people in B.C. is lower than Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario.

When asked if she has any regrets on how she's handled the pandemic over the past two years, Dr. Henry said she could have done better at communicating major changes in the province's pandemic strategies when the virus changed.

“If I could do anything over, it would be to be clearer in some of those communications, particularly at those stressful times when things are changing,” Dr. Henry said.

She added a paraphrasing of a Maya Angelou quote that has guided her over the past two years: “Do the best with what you know, and when you know better, do better.”

ORIGINAL: 11:55 a.m.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Health Adrian Dix provide an update on COVID-19 in British Columbia.

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