December 10, 2023

British Columbians are no longer formally required to self-isolate for five days if they have COVID-19.

The change in protocols, which was first reported by online publication the Capital Daily, appears not to have been formally announced.

The new guidance appeared this week on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) website.

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The BCCDC’s new language states, “Starting November 17, 2022, people who have COVID-19 are no longer required to self-isolate.”

“However, it is still important for people with symptoms to stay home as much as possible to reduce any potential spread of illness until your symptoms have improved, and you are able to participate in your usual activities.”

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Prior to the change, the BCCDC’s Self-Isolation and Self Monitoring website had stated that fully-vaccinated individuals “need to self-isolate at home for 5 days AND until your symptoms improve and you no longer have a fever,” while unvaccinated adults need to self isolate for 10 days.

The closest health officials appear to have come to announcing the changed protocol was during Wednesday’s media briefing on respiratory illness season.

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During the press conference, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the surge in influenza and RSV cases along with persistent circulation of COVID-19 meant it was no longer possible for people to tell which illness they were showing symptoms of.

“But the actions we take to to prevent the transmission and to look after ourselves are the same,” Henry said.

“One of the things we’ve had in place for a long time is saying if you have COVID you need to stay home for five days. That’s no longer relevant in the setting we are in now.

“Instead, if you have symptoms of any respiratory illness, we suggest — well, we recommend — the guidance is to stay home and to limit close contact with others until you no longer have a fever and you are well enough to participate in your usual daily activities.”

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The changed isolation protocol drops what is essentially the last formal COVID-19 restriction applicable to the general public.

At Wednesday’s briefing, Henry said the province was not considering implementing a “heavy-handed” mask mandate.

As of Thursday, the number of cases in B.C. hospitals had climbed slightly to 328, while test positivity was ticking upward in all health regions except for Vancouver Island.

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Global News is seeking comment from the ministry for the reasoning behind the change, and why it appears not to have been formally announced.

In an email, the ministry said, “Public Health’s basic guidance has not changed. If you have symptoms or have a positive test, you should isolate as much as is possible until the symptoms are gone.”

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