Ty Rillorta / Staff Reporter

B.C. has tightened and extended the COVID-19 restrictions until seen fit to try and prevent the spread of new variants of COVID-19. The mandate was announced by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on February 8.

The main idea behind the order is “We need to protect the progress we have made” as said by Henry. Masks must now be worn in all public spaces and gatherings are limited to only people in immediate households.

The duration of the COVID-19 restrictions is still to be determined, possibly by March, but it’s not official. “We are on a good trajectory, but it could change very quickly,” said Henry.     

Concerns over variants of the virus are arising. “If we start to see one of these variants take off, then all bets are off and we may increase some of the restrictions we have in place. I don’t want to go there” said, Henry. There has a variant observed in the U.K. and South Africa that was found in 28 out of 4,500 samples taken since December 1 in B.C. 

Schools have been mainly affected by the new regulations. Masks are now mandatory for both staff and students in B.C. schools., now being in line with provincial health regulations; moving away from where masks were only mandatory in students’ non-cohort classes. 

There have been many groups of people who have been advocating for mandatory masks in school long before the regulations were updated.  

Many “sick outs” have occurred in B.C. by students, with the hope of pressuring the school board of increasing COVID-19 regulations in schools. A recent one in Langley was on December 1, with the main people responsible being parents who felt that the schools weren’t doing enough to prevent the spread. Many of these parents were part of the BC Student SICK OUT Facebook group, made to prevent the spread of the virus by asking for a maximum of 15 students per class and mandatory masks at all times.  

The group is also asking for better protection for the staff as teachers aren’t getting the same protection as they would at other job sites. “Our educators deserve a safe work environment,” said on the Facebook page. 

Many parents were unsatisfied with the lack of transparency surrounding infection cases, so the Facebook page BC School Covid Tracker was made for parents to report if their child had gotten COVID-19. ” The mission of this citizen initiative for transparency of data on schools affected by COVID in British Columbia is to make information available, accessible and intelligible in real-time to school stakeholders” as said on the page. 

The flaw of misinformation or spreading lies was acknowledged by Stephen Hoption Cann, an epidemiologist at the University of British Columbia “If you’re depending on social media for your information, there is the possibility of giving inaccurate or slanted information, which may not be helpful” he said in a CBC article. 

With the possibility of the new COVID-19 variants spreading in B.C., it is best to prepare for the worst before it comes.