Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry looks on during a tour at the Victoria Conference Centre vaccination site to promote walk-in Wednesdays, an effort by the province to encourage those needing a first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine during a site tour in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, August 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

More restrictions as COVID-19 cases spike in B.C.’s Okanagan: top doctor

More restrictions as COVID-19 cases spike in B.C.’s Okanagan: top doctor

VANCOUVER — British Columbia health officials announced circuit-breaker restrictions in the central Okanagan region amid a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the highly infections Delta variant.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the Delta variant is driving the rapid spread in the area, accounting for 80 per cent of the COVID-19 cases among those who aren’t vaccinated or who have only had one shot.

She said many of infections are in those between the ages of 20 and 40.

“Most of the transmission events we are seeing are through social gatherings, whether that’s in vacation rental, people coming together and having parties, in bars and nightclubs that we’ve seen,” she told a news conference Friday.

“We’ve seen transmission in fitness centers, and personal gatherings from parties to weddings to other events.”

To curb the further spread of the virus, she said outdoor gatherings will once again be limited to 50 people, while indoor gathers are reduced to five extra people, plus those in the household.

Nightclubs and bars are closed and liquor is cutoff is at 10 p.m. at restaurants. High intensity indoor fitness classes are cancelled. Low intensity exercise at fitness centres is still permitted.

Health officials are asking people who intended to travel to the central Okanagan to try to change their plans, Henry said.

B.C. reported 464 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, more than half of them in the interior region. There are six active outbreaks in long-term care homes, four of those are in the Interior.

There have been no new deaths.

In those 12 and older in the province, 81.8 per cent have had their first shot, while 68.9 per cent are fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 cases are now spilling over into the health-care system, especially long-term homes, and “dozens” of acute care staff have been infected, she said.

“And that puts stress on our health-care system across both the central Okanagan, but all of the Interior.”

This spike in cases comes at a time when the health system is seeing a strain from wildfire activity in the area, she noted.

While a rise in COVID-19 numbers was expected when restrictions were lifted, Henry said this “rapid increase” needs to be stopped.

“This is not where we want us to be obviously right now, and we know, however, that we can make a tremendous impact in slowing this virus down,” she said. “We know what works.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2021.

The Canadian Press