B.C. records five COVID-19 deaths as fines increase for gatherings and long term care visitation rules loosen

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Increased Fines for gatherings

British Columbia has increased fines for attending and organizing events that contravene the provincial health officer’s (PHO) orders.

An amendment to the Violation Ticket Administration and Fine Regulation raised the fine for promoting and for attending a non-compliant gathering or event from $230 to $575. 

The current fine for those who organize or host a prohibited event remains the same at $2,300, according to the province.

“Over the last several months, it’s become clear that for some, the risk of a $230 violation ticket isn’t enough to deter attendance at events that violate the PHO order,” said Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general. 

“I am disappointed that a small minority of British Columbians continue to put their health and the health of others at risk by attending unsafe gatherings. This selfish behaviour needs to stop and police and provincial enforcement authorities will be able to issue these new fines immediately.”

Changes to long term care visits

The province announced it will ease visitation rules in long-term care homes next month. All residents in long-term care and assisted living will be able to have frequent, routine opportunities for social visitation starting April 1, the province said.

Eased restrictions include removing the requirement for a single designated social visitor to allow for additional family and friends to visit; allowing up to two people, plus a child to visit at one time and allowing residents to have visits with families in their rooms.

Physical contact between residents and visitors will be allowed, provided appropriate infection prevention and control measures, like masks and hand hygiene, are in place, the province said.

“Changes to long-term care visitation to allow for increased social connection are incredibly welcome news for seniors and elders in long term care and the communities that support them,” said Mable Elmore, parliamentary secretary for seniors services and long-term care.

“Through the unprecedented challenges this pandemic has posed, B.C. has taken strong action to protect people in long-term care and their loved ones, and we will continue to do everything we can to keep people in long-term care healthy and safe, both during this pandemic and beyond.”

Daily update

Island Health reported 39 new cases of COVID-19 today and now has 233 active cases, according to the health authority’s website. Of these, 109 are in the central island region, 105 are in the south and 19 are in the north.

There are 15 people hospitalized in the region, one of whom is in critical care, according to the province. No new deaths were reported. There were 798 tests done in the past 24 hours.

Across the province there were 800 new cases reported today and there are now 5,856 active. There are 306 people hospitalized with the virus, 79 of whom are in critical care, according to a joint statement from Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer and Adrian Dix, minister of health.

The statement said there has been a spike in cases in people aged 19–39. “This tells us some people are taking on more risk for themselves and their loved ones than what is safe right now,” it said.

“We remind everyone that although some outside activities are allowed, we must keep going with our protective layers. Until everyone has been protected with immunization, our protective layers must be the first and last thing we think about – whether at home, work, school or elsewhere.”

Of the active cases, 215 are variants of concern, according to the statement.

To date, 610,671 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the province, 87,212 of which were second doses. Vaccine appointment bookings are now open for people 75 or older, and Indigenous peoples over age 55.

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