British Columbians can now gather outdoors in groups of up to 10 people after restricting social gatherings for four months

Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry changed her public health policy on Thursday, which had banned outdoor gatherings since November and allowed residents to only meet outside for walks

The new guidelines mean families can have game dates and friends can meet outside for coffee, she said

Henry advised people to stick to the same group of people rather than hang out with multiple different groups, she said,

Children who meet should stick to the same school cohorts

Despite the province’s case numbers hitting around 500 a day for the past few weeks, Henry said the riskiest settings are indoors and the likelihood of spreading outdoors is decreasing

“After all these months, it is important to focus on a few things that we can safely do,” she said, “We need to focus outdoors now,”

Henry stressed that the province’s restrictions on indoor gatherings will remain in place for the time being. Only people who are part of the same household should meet indoors, including in restaurants

The province will also ban the sale of liquor in restaurants, bars, and liquor stores at 8 p.m. on Nov. March to gatherings on St Patrick’s Day, a similar tactic on New Years Eve

CLOCK | DR Bonnie Henry chokes as she talks about the economic impact of the pandemic on youth:

Henry updated her public health policy the same day the province recorded 569 new cases of COVID-19 and three more deaths

A total of 244 people are in the hospital, 68 people in the intensive care unit, there are 4 in the province912 active cases, another 8900 people are monitored by public health

The new modeling presented by Henry shows that the number of contacts is between 50 and 60 percent of normal

For modeling projects, a 50 percent contact rate could peak in mid-March, followed by a gradual decline in the spring months However, a contact rate of 60 percent could lead to an increase in the number of cases

This spike would be most noticeable in the Fraser Health region, where cases are currently rising, as the modeling shows

“This is not a prediction,” said Dr Warned Henry, “But it does help us understand the things we need to do”

BC. currently has the second highest daily case rate per capita after Saskatchewan, falling outside of the lower mainland but climbing in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions

The province’s reproductive number – the number of people a person will infect – hovers around one (a number close to or above one risks an increase in cases)

An additional risk to the scenarios are cases of more infectious variants circulating in the community.The province has registered more than 500 cases of the B117 variant, which were first identified in the UK Most of these cases were found at Fraser Health

The province has identified a small number of the B1351 variant, which first appeared in South Africa, and the P1 variant associated with Brazil

The P1 variant cases are linked to a cluster in the Vancouver Coastal Health area Henry said officials had not seen any transmission from that group

Henry said the variants were worrying but made up a small percentage of B.Cases suggesting that the provincial measures are working

She said BC. Cases like Ontario, where about 40 percent of the cases are variants, have not increased rapidly

There was also a “slight increase” in BC.The overall death rate last year, Henry said, although the province has had fewer “additional deaths” from COVID-19 than other jurisdictions including Ontario, Quebec, and the United States

The increase is due to both the new coronavirus and the overdose crisis, Henry said, adding that COVID-19 is the eighth leading cause of death in B.C. in 2020 and illegal drug toxicity was the fifth

“I recognize and acknowledge with certainty that we have all suffered losses in the past year, some of it an accumulation of tiny losses of these joys, these things that we had in our lives,” she said

“And for some people it is the tragic loss of a loved one, be it from COVID or other things in this uncertain time ”

Alex Migdal is a journalist with CBC News in Vancouver. He has previously reported for The Globe and Mail, Guelph Mercury and Edmonton Journal. You can reach him at Alex migdal @ cbcca

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