British Columbia is going into a near lockdown over the upcoming Easter weekend with indoor worship at churches and synagogues “suspended,” indoor dining at bars and restaurants “prohibited,” and instructions given to avoid all but “essential travel.”
The Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort will be shut down until April 19. Even outdoor worship will be limited to 50 persons or fewer. Outdoor patio dining at restaurants will be limited to parties of five, and only immediate family and household members.
What is officially called a “circuit breaker,” announced late Monday, will last at least three weeks and responds to a sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases. “In the last few days, we have seen the start of an exponential growth in new cases, hospitalization, and more people receiving critical support,” the province announced. “Don’t blow this for the rest of us. Do not blow this for your parents and others,” B.C. Premier John Horgan said in a sharply worded message to the province’s young people. The “cohort between 20 and 39” has given less attention to briefings and guidelines, added Horgan, “and are putting the rest of us in a difficult situation.”
The province has received kudos for its year-long response to the pandemic, notably daily briefings by B.C. Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix. Dr. Henry earned an upbeat profile in the New York Times. Lately, however, there has been bad news from the Great White North. Over a three-day period, B.C. has recorded 2,518 new cases of the coronavirus with 299 people hospitalized as of Monday evening. The province recorded six new deaths for a total of 1,455 to date. The 936 cases recorded Friday-Saturday represent the highest totals for 2021, and third highest since the beginning of the pandemic. Horgan noted that volume of new cases is higher than in the pandemic’s second wave between November and January.
Vaccination has had a relatively slow rollout, with just under 700,000 shots administered and just 87,000 B.C. residents fully immunized. “A circuit breaker is now required to break the chains of transmission in our province and allow us to safely move forward. Gathering indoors is too great of a risk for us right now,” Henry and Dix said in a statement.
A three-day Easter weekend has traditionally been a time to move around as Canada moves out of winter. For example, gardens at Government House in Victoria are blooming. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted a message Tuesday: Stay put. “Now is not the time to travel,” Trudeau warned. “If you have plans to head somewhere for the long weekend,” cancel them. Horgan urged his province’s young population to “curtail your social activities.”
The “circuit breaker” is in force through April 19. But, cautioned Horgan, B.C. has “weeks and weeks to go” before controlling the coronavirus.