What to know about the new regional COVID-19 restrictions in BC

Nov 7 2020, 5:34 pm

On Saturday, BC’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced new COVID-19 restrictions for the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions.

Here what you need to know about the new orders.

This article has been updated to include the latest information from the BC Government as of November 9, 2020. 

New rules clamp down on Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health

Dr. Bonnie Henry said the regional orders will go into effect at 10:00 pm on November 7 and will last until November 23 at 12 pm.

The order applies to the following cities and communities: 

  • Abbotsford
  • Agassiz
  • Burnaby
  • Chilliwack
  • Coquitlam
  • Delta
  • Hope
  • Howe Sound
  • Langley
  • Lions Bay
  • Maple Ridge
  • Mission
  • New Westminster
  • North Vancouver
  • Pemberton
  • Pitt Meadows
  • Port Coquitlam
  • Port Moody
  • Powell River
  • Richmond
  • Sunshine Coast Regional District
  • Surrey
  • Squamish
  • Vancouver
  • West Vancouver
  • Whistler
  • White Rock

The following communities are exempt:

  • Central Coast Regional District
  • Bella Coola Valley

What are the new restrictions?

The orders will affect four areas: social gatherings, travel, indoor group physical activities, and workplace safety.

Social gatherings and interactions

Under the new restrictions, gatherings of any size will not be allowed with members outside of your immediate household. This includes indoor and outdoor gatherings and overrides the previous gathering limit of 50 people.

Funerals and weddings will be allowed to proceed, but only with your immediate household, and receptions will not be allowed.

Residents in the affected areas must significantly reduce their social interactions, Henry said.

“I know this is hard. I know we don’t want to have to be doing this,” Henry told reporters. “We appreciate that this takes a sustained daily effort. These efforts are critical to keeping our businesses, our schools, open, and our communities safe as we go into winter.”

The province has provided guidance regarding activities individuals living in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions should avoid:

  • Do not invite friends or extended family to your household
  • Do not gather outdoors
  • Do not gather at restaurants
  • Do not have playdates for children

What defines your “immediate household”?

Your immediate household is “the people you spend the most time with and are physically close to,” stated the Ministry of Health.

These are the people who are part of your regular routine and include your household members, immediate family, a close friend or the people you come into “regular close contact with,” like a co-parent who lives outside the household.

“For others, their core bubble may contain a partner, relative, friend or co-parent who lives in a different household.”

An immediate household is:

  • Your immediate family
  • A group of people who live in the same dwelling. For example:
    • If you have a rental suite in your home, the suite is a separate household
    • If you live in an apartment or house with roommates, you are all members of the same household

What if you live alone?

If you live alone, you cannot host gatherings. However, you are allowed to see members of what you consider your “immediate household” (see definition above). You can see these individuals at home or at a restaurant.

What about walking with someone outside your household?

Going for a walk “isn’t considered a social gathering” but residents are asked to remain “vigilant” to ensure the walk doesn’t “turn into a group of people gathering outside,” said officials.

Restaurants:

Health officials confirmed that while you can see your “core bubble or immediate household” in a restaurant, it must be kept small, saying “we need to reduce our social interactions as much as possible.⁠”

Those living alone can continue to see members of what they would consider their immediate household at home, outside, or at a restaurant.⁠

Limiting travel

Henry is strongly recommending that travel into and out of the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions be limited to essential travel only. Those who live outside the areas should not visit unless it is urgent or essential, and only travel through only when needed.

Travel for sports into and out of the regions are suspended for the two week period as well.

Essential travel within BC includes:

  • Regular travel for work within your region
  • Travel for things like medical appointments

Group fitness activities

Businesses, recreation centres, and other organizations that include group physical activity must close under the new orders. This includes yoga, spin, and dance classes where people are increasing their heart rates.

“These are venues where we have seen rapid spread of the virus,” she said.

Henry acknowledged that some group fitness facilities have been doing a good job and following guidelines.

Indoor sports — such as boxing, martial arts, hockey, volleyball, and basketball — where physical distancing can’t be maintained will have to close as well, and indoor games and competitions will be suspended.

“Indoor group physical activities can only resume when the business has updated their COVID-19 safety plan and received plan approval from their local Medical Health Officer. Operator guidance on what an updated safety plan requires will be posted the week of November 9,” stated the province.

The rules will not apply to physical activities that are part of school-based programs.

Businesses and worksites

Businesses and worksites in the affected areas will be required to revisit and ensure strict adherence to COVID-19 safety plans. They must practice active, in-person COVID-19 screening of all on-site workers, Henry said.

Businesses must also ensure that all workers and customers maintain appropriate physical distancing and wear masks. Businesses that do not follow health guidelines will be shut down.

Henry said that people must be especially vigilant in small office spaces, such as breakrooms and kitchens.

Workplaces must ensure that employees are maintaining appropriate distancing and wearing masks when needed.

When COVID-19 plans slip or are not adhered to, virus cases rise, Henry said.

Restrictions on party buses

Party buses, limousines, and other “perimeter seating” vehicles were also ordered to immediately stop operating until further notice.

“We need to redouble our efforts to protect our hospitals, our schools, our families, our workplaces, our communities, and our elders,” Henry said. “Now is the time that we need to do this.”

Personal/ home-based services still permitted/ formal meetings

The following services are still allowed to operate

  • Hair and nail salons
  • Cleaning services
  • House repair
  • Tutoring and music lessons
  • Working with the disabled

As well as formal meetings:

  • City council meetings
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Group support meetings

Enforcement

When it comes to enforcement, Henry said she expects people to follow her orders and to “take these actions now.”

However, she says the province does have the ability to enforce rules via public health inspectors, bylaw officers, and police.

“But I don’t believe that that is necessary,” she said. “We don’t need a stick for people to realize the importance of taking these measures now for this time-limited period to break those chains of transmission to bend our curve.”

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