Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Vancouver's Granville Street entertainment district sits nearly empty just before 10 p.m. on St. Patrick's Day.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

When you begin to pretend that a pandemic is over at the same as a virus is not only still on the loose, but has spawned even deadlier mutations of itself, you are asking for trouble. And for weeks, case numbers of COVID-19 have been on the rise in British Columbia. So have reported cases of variants from the U.K., South Africa and, most frighteningly, from Brazil, where the P.1 has devastated young people. These variants send people to intensive care twice as often as the original strain of COVID-19, and there is a 60-per-cent higher chance of death.

New COVID-19 restrictions announced in B.C. amid rising cases

So it seems unimaginable that the province would maintain a status-quo position on its fairly lax public-health measures amid such a threat. But that’s precisely what it did.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s chief health officer, continued to urge people to maintain physical distance from one another, but ahead of spring break, she actually eased restrictions – allowing people to gather in larger numbers. Yet it had been obvious for weeks, if not months, that many people weren’t following her advice. Vaccines are here, after all! The great panic is over!

Story continues below advertisement

Is my area coming out of COVID-19 lockdown? Can I travel out-of-province? A guide to restrictions across Canada

Friends in the restaurant sector have told me business had been booming since February. Those managing these establishments knew that many of those sitting down at a table weren’t from the same household, but it was never going to be their job to police that. Consequently, party towns like Whistler began to live up to their reputation again. No surprise that the virus began taking off there, too.

There was going to come a point, however, where turning a blind eye to all that was taking place would no longer be acceptable. So with case numbers ballooning to more than 900 a day and setting new records, Dr. Henry realized that her mantra – be kind, be calm, be safe – was not having the same effect it once did. Like students with a substitute teacher, British Columbians just started to ignore her.

On Monday, Dr. Henry joined B.C. Premier John Horgan in announcing a three-week modified lockdown. There will be no indoor dining and no patrons in bars or pubs; pick-up and delivery will be fine, as would outdoor patios. Gyms will be closed except for one-on-one training; retail stores can remain open. They are shutting down Whistler’s ski resort, which likely should have happened weeks ago.

“We need to bend that curve,” said Dr. Henry. Even as she said it, though, one couldn’t help but wonder: What took so long?

People had been warning for weeks that the third wave could be worse than the second. Guess what? The third wave is now worse than the second. Dr. Henry has always sought a balance between keeping people safe and ensuring measures aren’t so restrictive that they prompt a revolt. Consequently, after an initial two-month lockdown last spring, B.C. enjoyed some of the least constrictive public-health safety edicts anywhere in the country.

It came at a price in the fall, when cases and deaths shot up. Dr. Henry would later concede she likely waited too long to slightly tighten protocols in response to rising caseloads. It could be argued – and almost certainly will – that she waited way too long to impose this recent “circuit breaker” in response to the third wave.

The Australian city of Brisbane recently announced a three-day lockdown after seven cases of COVID-19 were discovered; in January, it shut down for three days after a single case was found. In B.C., health authorities waited until more than 900 cases were reported, including deadly variants, on numerous days, before enacting anything that remotely looks like what they did in Australia.

Story continues below advertisement

Now, intensive care units are filling up and young people are getting extremely sick from virus variants.

“We cannot blow it now,” Mr. Horgan told a news conference Monday.

The problem is that his government already blew it by not putting the health interests of the public ahead of the interests of the business community.

B.C. is not the only province that has fumbled the third wave. Its government is not the only one that saw storm clouds on the horizon, knew something bad was rolling in and ignored the giant height of the waves about to crash around them.

Dr. Henry is perceived to have been fairly enlightened when it has come to her handling of the virus. And she has done many things well. But surely the good doctor would like to have a mulligan when it comes to the province’s handling of the third wave.

It’s here. It’s ugly. And it didn’t have to be this way.

Story continues below advertisement

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies