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Hockey games, weddings, concerts in B.C. back to 100 per cent for fully vaccinated

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VICTORIA — Indoor and outdoor organized events in British Columbia will soon be able to return to full capacity to allow those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend, with the province's top doctor saying health officials will keep an eye on the risk.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday that indoor sporting events, concerts, movie theatres, symphonies and other seated venues can go to 100 per cent capacity when proof of vaccination status is checked on Monday.

It's one day after the deadline on Sunday for residents to be fully vaccinated if they want to attend certain venues.

"So, it doesn't reduce the risk to zero. It means that we are mitigating the risk. We know that the risk of people who are fully vaccinated transmitting the virus and getting sick is much, much less."

Henry said not all residents may be able to safely attend those events, including immunocompromised people who might not feel ready to be exposed to others in a large group setting. Mask requirements for indoor settings like these are still in place, she said. 

Weddings, funeral receptions and parties can also go to full capacity. Orders aimed at restricting the movement of people at restaurants will also be lifted. 

However, officials will monitor the spread of infections because B.C.'s hospitals are "stretched," Henry added. "Yes, we are watching that carefully, and I hope to be able to take off more restrictions as we get through the next few months. But it's going to be a challenge for all of us." 

The rules remain in place for nightclubs and bars, where socialization is an important part of those settings, she added.

"It doesn't go as far as having lots of people dancing," she said of the continued restrictions.

B.C. reported 560 new cases on Tuesday and five more deaths for a total of 2,086.

The vaccination rate has reached 89.2 per cent for those eligible for the first shot and 83.5 per cent have received a second dose.

In order to attend events or venues, anyone who is 12 years and older will need to present their vaccine card proving that they have been fully vaccinated. The Sunday deadline requires anyone attending those settings to have been fully vaccinated for at least seven days.

Bridgitte Anderson, the chief executive officer of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, called changes a "critical step" towards the hospitality and tourism sector's recovery.

The Vancouver Canucks said in a statement on Tuesday the announcement was "great news" and said the team is looking forward to the season home opener next Tuesday.

Henry said capacity limits will remain in effect where regional orders are in place, including the eastern Fraser Valley and parts of the northern and Interior health regions.

She also addressed COVID-19 in schools, where she said the province is seeing similar transmission rates and numbers of schools affected as last year.

"Most of the infections, the source of infections, for school aged children is outside of the classroom," Henry said.

A new report by the Provincial Health Services Authority, posted to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's website, examined the impact of the virus during the start of B.C. 2021-22 school year.

"Serious outcomes from COVID-19 infections continue to be rare among all school-age children in B.C.," the report says. "Among 12-17-year-old children who are eligible to be vaccinated, hospitalization is less common in youth who have at least one dose of vaccine compared to those who are unvaccinated."

Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix also shared their frustration with efforts to crack down on businesses flouting COVID-19 safety rules.

"We're disappointed to be at this place because health authorities, as you can imagine, are unbelievably busy," Dix said.

The Fraser Health Authority is seeking an injunction against a restaurant in Hope that has refused to follow COVID-19 health protocols. 

"It shows people they don't respect their neighbours, they don't respect their business neighbours, they don't respect their community," Henry said of the restaurant. 

Dix said he understands other businesses may be frustrated by the delay in punishing the offending business, but the government is committed to cracking down on those who refuse to follow health orders.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2021. 

The Canadian Press