New Health Measures Take Aim at Omicron Variant of COVID-19


This article was first published on Friday, Dec. 17. It has been updated with new public health information based on health measures announced on Tuesday, Dec. 21.


Image via BC Government Flickr

The BC Provincial Health Officer is implementing additional measures to address rising COVID-19 case counts that could result in increased hospitalizations and critical care admissions and the potential to overstress the health care system. The measures come in response to a rapid rise in case rates of Omicron, the latest COVID-19 variant that is quickly becoming the dominant strain around the world.

On Dec. 17, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced health measures that went into place Dec. 20 and will be in effect through midnight Jan. 31. They include:

  • Limiting indoor personal gatherings to one household plus 10 fully vaccinated people or two households (not counting children age 11 or younger)
  • Requiring presentation of a BC Vaccine Card for organized events of all sizes
  • Cancelling all sports tournaments and related travel

On Dec. 21, further measures were announced and some of the Dec. 17 measures were strengthened. These take effect Dec. 23 and run through Jan. 18.​ They include:

  • No organized indoor social events and gatherings of any size;
  • Concerts, sports games and theatres reduced to 50 per cent seated capacity, regardless of venue size;
  • Closing gyms, fitness centres and dance studios;
  • Closing bars and nightclubs; and
  • Limiting table sizes at restaurants, cafes and pubs to a maximum of six people per table with physical distancing or barriers.

Dr. Henry said she revised the health orders over the weekend after speaking to colleagues around the world and seeing the impact of the Omicron variant on health systems in the UK and Quebec.

“The virus has changed and so must we," she said. “The rapid spread of Omicron tells us that it's inevitable that most of us in the province will be exposed at some point. How it affects us depends on our own actions."

In addition to the Provincial Health Officer's orders, BC residents are advised to:

  • Get fully vaccinated if they have not already done so,
  • Get their booster shot as soon as one is offered,
  • Stay home if they are sick,
  • Avoid all travel if not fully vaccinated and to follow the travel advisory issued by the federal government to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada.

Dr. Henry also emphasized the limit on personal gatherings should be considered an absolute maximum. “Keep the same group, not one group one day and another the other day. Pick your group, keep it as small as possible."

The Ministry of Health is also postponing non-urgent scheduled surgeries starting Jan. 4, 2022, to manage anticipated pressure on acute care facilities and create additional capacity to accelerate the booster dose campaign. Urgent and emergency surgeries will continue, and rescheduling will be determined through continuous monitoring of capacity and COVID-19 impacts throughout January and on a regional basis.

Learn More:

Office of Chief Medical Officer Warning on COVID-19 Omicron Variant:​

To register to be vaccinated, visit:

For information on booster doses:

To learn more about COVID-19 vaccines for children:

To learn about the BC Vaccine Card and how to access yours, visit:

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