British Columbians may see COVID-19 health orders ease further by spring break (March 14).
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a news conference on Tuesday, (March 1) that the COVID-19 situation in B.C. is improving “rapidly” and the province will provide an update on easing measures soon.
Henry added that the province removes restrictions and layers of protection when they feel confident to do so. B.C. has noticed a trend in COVID cases declining during the warmer months when more people are outside. However, Henry cautioned that COVID cases could surge again in the fall.
As the province looks to ease restrictions, they are also looking at changes to the way COVID infections are reported. Throughout the pandemic, the government has provided daily reports on new cases, hospitalizations, deaths and vaccination rates. The province will move to make those reports available on a weekly basis. Henry said COVID infections will also be integrated into B.C.’s serious respiratory illness surveillance reports where illnesses like influenza are tracked.
Although the province is eyeing changes in the near future, Henry said that the province will continue to conduct whole genome sequencing to monitor for new variants, expand wastewater testing to check for the prevalence of COVID and randomly sample routine blood collections for COVID. This is on top of B.C.’s testing program of PCR and rapid antigen tests.
The first publicly available rapid antigen tests were dispersed on Friday (Feb. 25). People aged 70 and over can access free rapid antigen tests through their local pharmacy. Individuals are limited to one rapid test kit per person within a 28 day period.
When asked how the province’s health care system will be able to handle a possible future variant surge, Health Minister Adrian Dix said B.C. will do its best to support the health- care system.
“There are exceptional challenges continuing to face our health-care system. That’s why we’ve added 602 new nurse training positions last week, why we’ve added more than 6,000 people to the senior care sector… the health human resources question is a central question and we’ll be presenting a plan on that shortly that builds on the work we’ve been doing.”
“The health-care system, I expect, will have as busy a year in 2022 as in 2021,” Dix added. “All [health-care workers] have been affected by this and we need to support them, understanding this is going to be an exceptionally busy year for health-care.”