British Columbians hoping to wrap up 2021 at their favourite bar or nightclub will need to rethink their plans after new public health orders aimed at curbing the spread of the fast-moving COVID-19 variant Omicron include the shut-down of all such venues in the province.
The new public health orders (PHO) go into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 22, 2021, and will be in place until Jan. 18, 2022.
In addition to the blanket closure of B.C. bars and nightclubs, restaurants in the province will once again have to cap groups at six people per table.
"Right now [bars and nightclubs] are risky settings," said B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. "We know that seated settings have much less risk," added Henry, noting that a return to the parameters that were successful in the past for curbing transmission in restaurants was in order at this time.
A new PHO mandating the cancellation of all indoor gatherings means that restaurants and cafes can no longer host parties or events for the next month.
Last week Henry announced a slate of new measures designed to flatten the curve of new coronavirus cases including PHOs aimed at restaurants and New Year's Eve events. The new measures, which went into effect Dec. 20, allow restaurants to operate at full capacity, but guests may not mingle between tables. Those orders remain unchanged, however, with the addition of the six-person limit on groups dining-in.
Restaurants may remain open for dinner service on New Year's Eve.
Restrictions in place prior to Dec. 20 affecting restaurants remain in place, including mandatory face mask-wearing while moving around the restaurant and no dancing. There are no current or new restrictions on liquor service at B.C. restaurants.
"Our government continues to investigate supports for those who are, or may be, impacted by these restrictions," said Deputy Premier Mike Farnworth in a live briefing on Tuesday (Dec. 21).
"Compliance with these restrictions is key, and is our collective responsibility," added Farnworth.