COVID-19 Latest News

Latest news

With new updates on BC’s Immunization Plan being announced almost weekly, Doctors of BC is working to find ways to keep you informed and to ensure you have access to the latest information being shared from our government and Provincial Health Officer. 

This web page has been created as a central hub for that information, and will be updated regularly with the latest news relevant to our members as the COVID-19 Immunization Plan rolls out across the province. 

 

COVID-19 Update: Highlights from the PHO briefing on Tuesday, May 10, 2022
  • Government has released data on the COVID-19 vaccination status of regulated health professionals as of April 25 – for all colleges except Nurses due to the large number of registrants.
  • PHO and MoH are working with all 18 colleges to understand the vaccination status, will then develop standards, and help people make informed choices
  • Very high level of vaccination among regulated health care professionals that ranges from:
    • College of Dieticians - 98%
    •  College of Physicians & Surgeons - 98%
  •     to
    •  College of Chiropractors - 78.1%
    •  College of Naturopaths - 69.2%
  • BC has weathered Omicron better than other areas in Canada and around the world due to our high vaccination rates
  • This has allowed us to remove restrictions, and even though hospitalization and infection rates have leveled off, we’re still in a pandemic with the associated strain on healthcare
  • Info shows that two doses or recent infection protections wain over time. 
  • Three doses are needed for added protection against Omicron, which also helps increase protection from other variants, severe disease, and long-haul symptoms
  • No changes with the fourth booster – is being given to those 70+, Indigenous people 55+, and CEV patients, all of who received their first booster at least six months earlier
COVID-19 Update: Highlights from the PHO briefing on Thursday, March 10, 2022
  • As of March 11, British Columbians are no longer required to wear masks in low-risk indoor public spaces, although some businesses may still require patrons to wear a mask on their premises.
  • Masks will still be required in health care settings, such as doctors’ offices and hospitals. 
  • Wearing a mask in common areas in work places is no longer mandated, but businesses can enforce their own mandates. 
  • Masks will no longer be required in schools after March Break. 
  • As of March 18, there will be no visitor limits at long-term care and seniors' assisted living facilities, but vaccine cards and rapid testing will still be required.
  • As of April 8, enforcement of the BC vaccine card will end, as long as cases continue their downward trend. Businesses can shift from COVID-19 safety plans to communicable disease plans.
  • Restrictions are being lifted given high population immunity, falling cases and hospitalizations, and less virus detected in waste water, among other factors. 
  • Regulated health professionals are still required to report their vaccine status by March 31. There will be a 'measured approach' with each regulatory college, and in some cases registrant vaccination status may be provided to patients so they can make informed decisions.
  • Concerning mandatory vaccination among regulated health care providers, Dr Henry said, "We're taking a more nuanced, risk-based approach. For some, that will mean that you must be vaccinated to practice in certain settings, but we're doing that on a more tailored basis for each of the regulated health professions."  She further said, “This is different from our original vision, which would be people not being able to practice if they were not vaccinated by March 24.”  The vaccine mandate for health care workers in acute care and LTC remain in place.  
  • British Columbians aged 50-59 are now eligible to get free rapid tests from pharmacies. Learn more on the BC Pharmacy website.
COVID-19 Update: Highlights from the PHO briefing on Tuesday, March 1, 2022
  • Nearly 100 per cent of all surgeries postponed B.C. during the first, second and third waves of the COVID-19 pandemic have now been completed.
  • There are no changes coming to current COVID-19 restrictions in B.C. at this time but health officials say the province is moving to a better place “rapidly.”
  • We are in a transition phase and not enough is yet known about this virus from an epidemiologic point of view for us to consider it endemic.
  • The spread of the virus is declining in most parts of the province but there are still areas where vaccination rates are low. The Omicron BA.2 variant is also popping up in clusters in the province. It seems to spread more easily but does not seem to cause more serious illness or be any more resistant to vaccines that the regular Omicron variant. There is also a BA.3 variant and a Delta-Omicron variant being seen in some parts of the world but they have not yet shown up in B.C.
  • It seems likely that a fourth vaccine dose will be needed for older residents and those with compromised immune systems.
COVID-19 Update: Highlights from the PHO briefing on Tuesday, February 15, 2022
  • Tonight at midnight, BC will lift many of its restrictions, given hospitalizations are continuing to fall and severe illness from the virus has been mitigated by vaccines.
  • Most indoor and outdoor events will return to normal capacity for the following, however mask wearing and the BC Vaccine Card will still be required:
    • Indoor personal gatherings can return to normal. Indoor and outdoor organized gatherings will return to full capacity.
    • Restaurants, bars, pubs and nightclubs, can return to full capacity with no limits on table size and customers are free to move around.
    • Exercise and fitness, adult sports activities, tournaments and swimming pools, and movie theatres, can operate at full capacity.
  • There is no change to the requirement of wearing a mask in all indoor public settings such as coffee shops, schools, community centres, malls, retail stores, libraries, and places of worship.
  • Restrictions of long term care and assisted living facilities remain in place. Businesses must still have a COVID-19 safety plan in place.  
  • A review of remaining restrictions will take place March 15 and April 12.  More information for all the changes can be found on the government website.  
  • BC has now received 15,318,000 rapid tests.  Rapid tests will be distributed to K-12 symptomatic students starting next week, and will likely extended to the wider population in coming weeks, beginning with seniors.
  • Patients are now beginning to receive calls to reschedule their postponed surgeries. 
COVID-19 Update: Highlights from the PHO briefing on Wednesday, February 9, 2022
  • BC is moving ahead with mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for ALL health care professionals in BC, including community physicians. This will take effect March 24th. 
  • The new mandate will be enforced on a phased in basis, with a process for individuals to flag medical exemptions with Dr Henry's office.
  • Dentists, chiropractors, dietitians, and others who are regulated by BC's 19 health care colleges are included in this mandate for health care workers, which aims to create a "consistent supported standard across health care."  
  • More details on expected changes to provincial restrictions, and a more long-term COVID-19 strategy for the province, will be announced next week. 
  • The PHO advises that all vaccinated people should get their booster at 6 months, regardless of whether they have been infected with COVID-19.
  • As of February 5, BC had received more than 12 million rapid tests, information on broader distribution will be announced next week. By the end of February, a total of 25.6 million rapid tests will arrive in BC.
  • The PHO said that the actions of a few doctors who are spreading mis-information about the pandemic are “reprehensible,” but that the College is dealing with it.  
  • We can expect this serious respiratory illness will be with us for at least the next year.
COVID-19 Update: Highlights from the PHO briefing on Tuesday, January 25, 2022
  • The provincial vaccine card program to access non-essential indoor spaces has been extended until June 30. 
  • Youth sports tournaments can return as of February 1, but adult tournaments remain on pause. 
  • At present, a gradual decline in reported case rates and test positivity rates is being seen. Community infections are trending downwards, but hospitalizations are near record levels. 
  • Children, and older people in long-term care settings, continue to be disproportionately affected by the Omicron variant.
  • Long-term care and assisted living facilities have seen a sharp increase in cases, but the high rate of vaccination means a much lower rate of severe illness and death. 
  • Public health is working closely with long-term care facilities to maintain visitation continuity.
  • The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has updated guidance on 5 to 11 year olds. The stronger language around vaccine recommendations for this cohort now says this group should get the vaccine, and immunocompromised children should get a third dose. Dose two invitations are being sent out to eligible children in BC over the coming days. 
  • There are 985 COVID-positive individuals in hospital in BC, with 144 in intensive care. These numbers include so-called “incidental” cases in which a patient is admitted to hospital for reasons unrelated to COVID-19, but test positive during a routine screening.
COVID-19 Update: Highlights from the PHO briefing on Tuesday, January 19, 2022
  • Restrictions for bars, nightclubs, and other indoor gatherings will remain in place until February 16, at which time they will be reviewed. 
  • Gyms and fitness centres across the province can gradually reopen as of January 20, as long as capacity limits are in place and everyone is fully vaccinated. 
  • The vaccine card will also remain place, past the original January 31 deadline, and may be expanded. At this point, two doses of the vaccine are required for the card to be valid, a third dose or booster is not required.
  • A new PHO Order gives school districts the power to obtain the vaccine status of all school employees, students still aren’t required to provide proof. 
  • Distribution of the antiviral drug Paxlovid is still being worked out, and while it will not change the trajectory of the pandemic, it will be a helpful tool for the healthcare system. 
  • Health Canada has nearly completed its reviews of two other COVID-19 vaccines, one from Medicago (headquartered in Quebec) the other from Novavax (based in Maryland but manufactured in Quebec). 
  • It was stressed that if employees become ill and take sick days, they do not require a note from their physician to get back to work or school or return to daycare or child care.  
  • While many people have experienced mild illness during the Omicron wave, there are groups that can have more severe outcomes, including older people, those who are immunocompromised, and unvaccinated people. 
  • Data shows that approximately one in 10 people who are infected with COVID-19 will experience symptoms that last for twelve weeks or longer. While many people are experiencing mild illness during the omicron wave, those who are vulnerable, immunocompromised, or unvaccinated are at greater risk for more severe outcomes.
COVID-19 Update: Highlights from the PHO briefing on Tuesday, January 11, 2022
  • The province is expecting a high rate of transmission over the next few weeks due to the omicron variant before we start seeing a decline.
  • A number of antiviral treatments are under review by federal health officials, including Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s Molnupiravir, that will likely be available to provinces later this month. 
  • Real-life cases show the risk of hospitalization and severe illness is lowered by 60 to 70 percent for those with two doses of the vaccine, and protection against hospitalization, illness, and death increases to 80 to 90 percent, after receiving the booster.
  • Restrictions on gatherings and events remain unchanged – although officials will begin to look at what could change now that businesses will have re-implemented their COVID-19 safety plans.
  • K-12 are back in school this week with full protocols in place, but it will be bumpy over the next few weeks as we navigate through this wave.
  • The accelerated booster campaign is full on: more than 2M invites to eligible people have gone out in total, with 500,000 sent out last week. Capacity continues to grow – 80,000 appointments opened up on Monday for both pharmacies and health authority clinics.
  • Government is sticking to the 6-month interval between the 2nd dose and booster – it’s a balance of near-term risk vs. long-term risk, unlike what some other provinces are doing.
COVID-19 Update: Highlights from the PHO briefing on Tuesday, January 4, 2022
  • 80% of all new cases are now from Omicron.
  • Because the Omicron variant results in a much shorter incubation period, transmits faster, and its symptoms are similar to other illnesses (cold, flu, etc) our response needs to be different. Case and contact tracing are no longer reactionary measures that will help us contain this. Everyone needs to be more proactive with their own preventative measures.
  • The booster campaign has been accelerated, invitations are now going out to those who have reached 6 months or 182 days since their 2nd dose. 
  • Boosters are being provided in more than 700 locations across the province in pharmacies and health authority clinics. Both are booking via the Get Vaccinated booking system only. 
  • All business, including doctors’ offices, must ensure their COVID safety plans are firmly in place, given the high number of people (and your staff) contracting the Omicron variant and taking sick time. The estimate is that businesses could see up to 30% of their employees off sick with the variant.
  • Fitness to work protocols are being considered to allow health care workers in health authority facilities who have mild or asymptomatic COVID to return to work, although they would be restricted to working with COVID patients – this protocol is considered a last resort.
  • In long-term care and assisted living facilities, visitation was again restricted to essential visitors only. Starting this week, as Rapid Testing kits are distributed throughout these facilities and as staffing allows, visitation can increase to one designated social visitor. 
  • 39% of children 5-11 have received their first dose. The time interval between 1st and 2nd doses for children and youth will remain at 8 weeks.