The provincial government will allow gyms and fitness centres to reopen starting Jan. 20.
Capacity limits will be placed on gyms, limiting operation to one customer per 7 meters squared of floor space. Proof of vaccination will continue to be required.
All other restrictions, including capacity limits and the closure of nightclubs/bars, have been extended to at least Feb. 16.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry made the announcement Tuesday during a media briefing.
She called the reopening of gyms a “cautious step” after their proactive closure at the onset of the Omicron wave in late December.
“I know that many people felt that we were overreacting. And I've said this from the very beginning of the pandemic that our challenge and my challenge is to find that balance of making sure we're doing just enough to address the situations we're in and not not allowing our system to be overwhelmed,” she said.
COVID-positive hospitalizations are currently at an all-time high, Henry noted.
The new health guidelines on the operation of gyms were developed in collaboration with the Fitness Industry Council of Canada.
“Please know, it was a very difficult decision to close gyms and fitness facilities,” Henry said.
The gym closures were perhaps Henry's least popular restriction of the pandemic so far. Several B.C. gyms openly defied the orders while fundraising to pay fines. She, however, said public pressure played no role in her decision.
Other restrictions that remain in place until Feb. 18 include those around gatherings and events.
Indoor gatherings continue to be limited to one household plus 10 other individuals or one other household. Everyone who attends a gathering must be vaccinated; no unvaccinated people may attend parties or social gatherings.
For couples hoping to tie the knot with a large reception to companies hosting large celebratory events, the order states that no indoor organized gatherings are permitted. Additionally, bars and nightclubs remain ordered closed.
"So this will apply to the closures that we have right now in bars and nightclubs," Henry said. "Limitations that we have in restaurants to make sure that we're minimizing the risk of transmission in those settings...and the capacity limits."
Restaurants, pubs, and cafes are permitted to stay open but only a maximum of six guests may be seated per table (plus physical distancing or barriers). Guests cannot mingle between tables.
Indoor events at venues can only have 50 per cent capacity, no matter the size. Examples of indoor events at venues include theatres, sports events, lectures, and concerts.
The COVID-19 safety plan order remains in place for numerous B.C. workplaces. The plan includes employees working from home when possible, practicing physical distancing, and keeping staff separate from customers. The order is specific to industry and businesses and does not apply to child care, K-12 schools or post-secondary education.
"And I would like to remind all businesses that this is something that will help us to continue to function and to function through this next few weeks as well," Henry noted.
The BC Vaccine Card Program will continue to cover events of all sizes, regardless of the number of people attending.
with files from Vancouver is Awesome