VICTORIA - British Columbia is tightening public health restrictions as it also introduces enhanced rapid testing and booster shot programs to fight the highly contagious COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Starting at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, bars, nightclubs, gyms, fitness centres and dance studios will have to close, and all seated events will be reduced to 50 per cent capacity.

Indoor gatherings including weddings are being cancelled.

The health orders allow restaurants and cafes to stay open, but seating will be limited to a maximum of six people at a table, and physical distancing must be followed.

The new measures will remain in effect until Jan. 18.

The government also announced an expansion of its vaccine booster program starting in January when large venues, such as the Vancouver Convention Centre, will become mass immunization sites.