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Dr. Bonnie Henry comments on gatherings order in B.C. and 'COVID-19 pills'

The pills are an 'important tool' that will affect the PHO orders in B.C.
Dr. Bonnie Henry said on Jan. 11, 2022, that the order on gatherings and events will remain as B.C. waits for COVID-19 antiviral drugs like Paxlovid.

B.C.'s top doctor says people will need to be patient regarding the province's rules on gatherings and events in the wake of soaring daily coronavirus case counts. 

The number of British Columbians with COVID-19 infections serious enough to need hospital care has soared 95.9 per cent in the first 10 days of 2022, to the highest level seen since Nov. 5, 2021.

While health officials anticipate that additional treatment options will be available soon in B.C., provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters in a briefing Tuesday (Jan. 11) that restrictions on gatherings and events will remain unchanged for now. 

"We anticipate that we'll have additional treatment options that will be available in B.C.," she explained. "As we've talked about before, there's a number of new antiviral medications, particularly Paxlovid [and] Molnupiravir, that are under review by Health Canada."

The health official noted that antiviral medications are another "important tool" in keeping British Columbians safe and those who are at high risk of severe illness out of the hospital. 

"What this means in the short term is that the restrictions on gatherings and events are likely to remain unchanged for now," she emphasized. 

The province will look into what businesses may safely resume their operations now that they have comprehensive COVID-19 safety plans in place.

On Jan. 7, Henry issued an order for all B.C. businesses to have safety plans that include 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. 

Pfizer's antiviral drug, Paxlovid, was the first pill authorized in the United States to treat early COVID-19 infections. All of the previously authorized drugs against the disease require an IV or an injection.

Health Canada says it is prioritizing the review of all COVID-19 antiviral drugs and deliveries of these treatments are expected to start following authorization of the treatments.

The department underscores that vaccines are "the best way to protect public health from COVID-19" but that "effective, easy‑to‑use and accessible treatments, such as the ones produced by Merck and Pfizer" are critical to reducing the severity of illness caused by the virus. 

With files from Glen Korstrom and the Canadian Press