COVID-19: B.C. health officials restricting visitors at long term care homes

Health officials are also reducing the time that people need to self-isolate if they are fully vaccinated and symptom-free to five days from 10.

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Visitors to long term care homes are now restricted to essential personnel only in a bid to stem the spread of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.


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Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, brought in the new restriction Friday, saying the virus is spreading rapidly in the community.

She said they are limiting visitors starting Saturday to protect vulnerable seniors and health care workers. The government will re-evaluate this decision on Jan. 18.

“This virus has changed,” said Henry, adding that while it has become more infectious it appears to be a milder illness in those who are fully vaccinated.

Health officials are also opening up booster shots to six months from eight after the last vaccine for most people. They are also fast-tracking those booster shots for pregnant people. Anyone who is pregnant and had their last shot six months ago should not wait for an invitation and can call and book an appointment.


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Up until now, health officials have been focussed on providing booster shots for those who are more at risk such as elderly residents, the clinically vulnerable and health care workers. B.C. residents over age 60 who had their second dose six months ago and those who received double AstraZeneca shots should have either already received an invitation to book a booster shot or will do by the end of next week.

And, health officials are reducing the time that people need to self-isolate if they are fully vaccinated to five days from 10 as long as they don’t have symptoms like fever.

Henry said starting now if you no longer have symptoms you only need to isolate for five days. This means you can go back to work with a mask but should stay away from settings where there are vulnerable people like care homes and large gatherings.


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The reason for this new measure is because the Omicron variant has a shorter incubation period and people recover more quickly, Henry said.

However, if you are unvaccinated you still need to isolate for 10 days.

Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead of B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Program, said as of Thursday B.C. health officials had provided 905,784 booster shots. She said they are working to get invitations out to people who had their last shot six months ago but there is a backlog.

She said that there is a backlog of about 800,000 people under the age of 60 who are over their six-month interval.

“So our first priority will be to address that group,” said Ballem.

“For the rest of the population our original plan was to go have people boosted between six and eight month. It is a reasonable time frame as Dr. Henry has said and that’s how we planned it. But I think at the end of the day the onset of Omicron…has really changed the needs.”


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The evidence is becoming clear that after six months immunity wanes so the next phase of B.C.’s booster plan will be focussed on vaccinating everyone to as close to the six-month mark as possible, said Ballem.

Ballem said again they will be expanding capacity by bringing on more pharamaciesusing sport and community centres and arenas to provide booster immunizations.

B.C. businesses are facing serious challenges with staff shortages, but Henry encouraged all employers to have a plan to support people staying home while sick. She said it may mean some businesses have to close temporarily if they don’t have the staff. She also encouraged anyone who can to work from home.

Health Minister Adrian Dix urged British Columbians not to gather for large parties this New Year’s Eve. He said the Omicron variant is spreading fast and he expects people to follow the rules.

More to come…

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