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B.C. should extend COVID-19 restriction to control variant virus spread: expert

Last Updated Jan 7, 2021 at 11:50 am PDT

FILE -- Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at a lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

An infectious disease expert argues in favour of extending health orders in B.C. to stop cases and deaths from spiking

UBC's Horacio Bach argues the new COVID-19 variant, which is more contagious, is another reason orders are needed

Bach expects cases to go up over the next two weeks because of the holidays, before dipping back down again

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — With the ban on social gathering expiring Thursday night, an infectious disease expert believes B.C.’s top doctor will extend the restrictions to stop new COVID-19 infections and deaths spiking any higher, especially now that the virus mutation has been detected in the province.

UBC’s Horacio Bach thinks B.C.’s COVID-19 situation is quite steady because the new-case rate has remained between 400 and 600 in recent weeks. However, the new variant, which is up to 70 per cent more transmittable, is why he argues the ban on gatherings is a good idea, at least for a little longer.

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“We have this new variant that came to B.C. as well. At this point, we don’t know how it will spread or disseminate in the population,” he tells NEWS 1130.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry extended the health orders in early December to slow the spread of the virus throughout the province.

In the second surge of COVID-19, hospitalizations have repeatedly hit new highs, increasing from about 100 patients hospitalized in November to nearly 400 by January. More people have been dying, mostly seniors and residents in long-term care, with daily reported numbers in the double-digits several times last month.

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“Mainly the problem is if this virus – the new variant – starts to hit the population, you’ll expect more people to be sick, more people that will look for health treatment,” Bach says.

He expects new infections to go up over the next two weeks because of the holidays, before dipping back down to where the province was before the new year.

“I think it would be very wise to continue with the guidelines because that’s the way we keep relatively low numbers compared to other provinces in Canada,” he explains.

Ontario has been reporting more than 3,000 daily COVID-19 infections, breaking records, while Quebec is imposing an 8 p.m. curfew starting Saturday to curb the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, as of Wednesday, 33,665 British Columbians have been immunized with COVID-19 vaccine and Henry has said the province plans to give the shot to about 150,000 people by February.

Bach agrees with health officials who urge everyone to continue with health measures, like mask-wearing and physical distancing, despite the start of vaccine distribution.

“This virus is not going to disappear very fast,” he says. “People need to be conscious and continue with the same guidelines until we see the virus decrease.”