B.C. imposes new round of gathering restrictions to fight COVID's Omicron variant

Dr. Bonnie Henry has announced new rules for restaurants, gatherings and events.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said all indoor gatherings will be limited to one household plus 10 other individuals. Everyone who attends a gathering must be vaccinated. | Photo via Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

British Columbians may have to rethink their party plans this holiday season. 

Health officials announced new restrictions on gatherings and events in a press briefing Friday (Dec. 17) afternoon. 

While the recently identified Omicron coronavirus variant isn't spreading as rapidly in B.C. as in other places across Canada, such as Ontario, B.C.'s top doctor underscores that health officials are actively monitoring the situation locally. 

Effective Monday, Dec. 20, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said all indoor gatherings will be limited to one household plus 10 other individuals or one other household. Everyone who attends a gathering must be vaccinated; no unvaccinated people may attend parties or social gatherings. 

The BC Vaccine Card Program is also being extended to cover events of all sizes, regardless of the number of people attending.

"It no longer starts with events of 50 or more people, which has been the case in the last few months," said Henry.

Venues with a capacity of 1,000 or more people will be limited to 50 per cent capacity, too. "Whether that's a concert, hockey game, theatre... if the capacity is more than 1,000 then we are reducing that by 50 per cent capacity, and that's to ensure that we have additional space for people," she described.

While there hasn't been a great deal of transmission at these events, Henry emphasized that with the threat of Omicron "we need to have more space, more ventilation, and we need to ensure that we are enforcing the mask-wearing requirements."

Restaurants may continue to operate at full capacity but guests cannot mingle between tables. All New Year's Eve parties and events are cancelled but restaurants may stay open for dinner. 

The new restrictions will be in place until Jan. 31 at 11:59 p.m. when health officials will reevaluate the risk to public safety.