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Operation Red Nose cancels Tri-Cities' ride services for New Year's Eve 2021

B.C.'s new public health restrictions amid COVID-19 have included the cancellation of all New Year's Eve events.
Operation Red Nose will not be offering safe rides home in the Tri-Cities on New Year's Eve 2021 out of respect for the safety of its volunteer drivers and staff. | Facebook

Organized and ticketed New Year's Eve parties have been ordered to be cancelled this year as B.C. public health officials hope to reduce the spread of COVID-19 over the holidays.

More specifically, concerns are rising of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, which has led to other tighter restrictions as announced by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Friday (Dec. 17).

As a result, Operation Red Nose has also cancelled its services across Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Anmore, Belcarra, Burnaby and New Westminster for the evening of Dec. 31, 2021, and the early morning of Jan. 1, 2022.

Jackie Weinkam, coordinator of the local branch of the ride-sharing non-profit, explains in a statement to the Tri-City News the decision is out of respect for the safety of its drivers and volunteers.

In a normal year, New Year's Eve would be the busiest night of the season for Operation Red Nose as dozens of associated vehicles are out in full force between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.

However, the campaign has seen fluctuating rider numbers in the last three years as more people chose other ways of getting home safely from holiday parties and celebrations.

In 2020, 436 rides were provided in the Tri-Cities — a 20 per cent decrease compared to 543 in 2019 and eight per cent from 473 in 2018.

Last year, a total of $16,176 was also raised through donations to KidSport Tri-Cities as part of Operaton Red Nose's annual initiative.

The money offers grants to families in need to pay for registration fees.

As the Omicron variants is becoming a concern with public health officials, Dr. Henry has implemented new and amended restrictions to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 mutation over the holidays.

This included the cancellation of all New Year's Eve events, but restaurants can still operate at full capacity with no deadline on liquor service and only have up to six patrons per table/seating area.

"So this goes back to the last few waves of this virus of this pandemic, where you go with your group of people to the restaurant, you stay at the table together," Dr. Henry explained.  

"There's no mingling and standing and mixing of tables and this will apply for New Year's Eve as well."

Today (Dec. 21), Dr. Henry added new restrictions that close all bars and nightclubs, and cancel all indoor organized gatherings of any size (i.e., weddings, receptions and celebrations) — both of which go into effect tomorrow night at 11:59 p.m. (Dec. 22).

As of Monday (Dec. 20), Dr. Henry said all indoor gatherings will be limited to one household plus 10 other individuals or one other household.

Everyone who attends a gathering must be vaccinated; no unvaccinated people may attend parties or social gatherings. 

The new restrictions will be in place until Jan. 31 at 11:59 p.m. when health officials will reevaluate the risk to public safety.