Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Dec. 17, 2020. (B.C. government)

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Dec. 17, 2020. (B.C. government)

B.C. finished 2020 with 683 more COVID-19 cases, eight deaths

Increase shows ‘precarious situation’ for New Year

Ending liquor sales at 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve was a necessary step to keep a lid on COVID-19 transmission as B.C. heads into 2021, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says.

An increase in new cases shows the “precarious situation” that still exists as B.C. carries on restrictions into 2021, Henry said at the year’s final briefing from the B.C. legislature. Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix reported an uptick in new cases Dec. 31, with 683 additional cases identified, after a decline since before Christmas.

Henry acknowledged Thursday that the decision to cut off alcohol sales at restaurants, pubs and retail stores two hours early on New Year’s Eve is another difficulty for them. It’s the staff who have to deal with parties that get out of hand when people drink too much and forget their infection precautions, “and sadly we have seen that happen, even in the last few weeks,” she said.

Henry said the 8 p.m. cutoff has prompted some people to move their reservations to another night, as struggling restaurants will need the business for many weeks after the holidays are over.

B.C.’s daily cases have declined in recent days, with 485 new cases identified on Wednesday, 382 Tuesday, 441 on Monday, 424 on Sunday, 447 on Saturday and 512 cases last Friday, Christmas Day. Daily reported tests results also declined during the holidays, down to 4,675 on Tuesday after reaching highs of as much as 15,000 tests a day during the peak of the second surge of infections in November and early December.

B.C. recorded eight more deaths Dec. 31, seven of them in the Fraser Health region where the majority of new infections continue to be identified. There have been two more outbreaks declared in the health care system, one at Williams Lake Seniors Village and one at Langley Memorial Hospital’s long-term care centre.

Two health care outbreaks have been declared over, at Saanich Peninsula Hospital and Banfield Pavilion in Vancouver. A community outbreak at the Big Horn Motel in Watson Lake on the Yukon border has also been declared over.

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