British Columbia extends COVID-19 curbs until February, gyms allowed to reopen

A sign for the COVID-19 test collection centre at the Vancouver International Airport

(Reuters) - British Columbia will allow gyms to open from Thursday, but other restrictions will stay in place until Feb. 16 as the healthcare system continues to be impacted by COVID-19, the Canadian province's top health official said on Tuesday.

The Pacific province had shut gyms and bars, and placed capacity limits on restaurants and events before Christmas when COVID-19 cases started to spike due to the Omicron variant.

"After looking at the data ... today I'm taking the cautious step of reopening gyms and exercise facilities with capacity limits and the continued use of the B.C. vaccine card," Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry told reporters at a briefing.

B.C. had released data on Friday that suggested Omicron infections might have peaked, but new hospitalizations were still a concern as those were projected to continue rising this week.

Nationally, however, cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 could surge in coming weeks, putting significant new strains on the healthcare system, Canada's chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, said last week.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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