What You Need To Know About British Columbia’s Latest COVID-19 Restrictions

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On a rare weekend on Saturday, BC provincial health worker Dr Bonnie Henry and Minister of Health Adrian Dix announced a series of new restrictions for residents of the Lower Mainland in a bid to slow the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases.The new orders focus on social gatherings, travel, indoor group exercises, and workplaces. They’re not as drastic as those introduced in March – they don’t affect the entire province, many businesses can stay open, and students will still take classes in person.

But they represent the broadest restrictions that residents of British Columbia have experienced since the province began its gradual reopening in May.

Here’s what we know so far.

Where do the new restrictions apply and how long will they be in effect?

The new restrictions apply to residents of the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health areas, where cases of COVID-19 have increased in recent weeks. The communities of Hope, Bella Coola and the Central Coast are exempt.

The ordinances went into effect at 10 p.m. Saturday and will last for two weeks, until Monday, November 23 at noon.

What are the rules for social gatherings?

People living in the two affected health authorities are now told not to socialize with anyone outside their immediate homes.

While previous guidelines from health authorities had allowed people to socialize with a small group of people – whom you call your “safe six” – the new guidelines trump that recommendation due to worrying levels of community spread.

Weddings and funerals can take place – but only with people living in the same household.

What is a household?

It might sound obvious, but the Provincial Health Authority has come up with a definition for those who still have questions.

A household is defined as a group of people living in the same dwelling. If you have a rental suite in your home, the suite is a separate household. If you live in an apartment or a house with roommates, you are all members of the same household.

A household can also include “people who are part of your usual routine, for example a co-parent who lives outside the household”.

What about people who live alone?

Henry said people who live alone are allowed to maintain a “one to two person” bubble, acknowledging that the rules are especially tough for those without household members or for couples who live apart. These people could socialize with their bubble at home, in a restaurant or outside.

People who live with others should not socialize with people outside of their home, home, outdoors, or in restaurants.

Henry said people who live alone are allowed to maintain a “one to two person” bubble. (Gian Paolo Mendoza / CBC)

What about outdoor gatherings?

The province clarified on Sunday that the ban on gatherings of people outside your household includes outdoor gatherings and gatherings at restaurants.

What are the new travel rules?

Henry strongly recommended that travel to and from Fraser Health Region and Vancouver Coast Health Region be limited to essential travel only.

What are the new rules for fitness facilities?

Businesses and leisure centers that organize indoor group physical activities have been asked to suspend such activities. This includes spin classes, yoga, group fitness, dance classes, and other indoor group activities that increase breathing rates.

Indoor sports where physical distance cannot be maintained are also suspended. This includes boxing, martial arts, hockey, volleyball, and basketball.

Indoor group physical activities may reopen once businesses update their COVID-19 safety plan and receive approval from their local medical officer of health.

These rules do not apply to sports programs in schools. Gyms that do not operate group fitness and where physical distance can be maintained at all times, may remain open. The swimming pools also remain open.

Are the restaurants closing?

Usually no. But restaurants are urged to review their COVID-19 security plans and make sure tables are six feet apart, with seating limited to six people.

Restaurants that are unable to meet these rules will be asked to revert to a take-out-only model.

What about other workplaces?

Henry said workplaces should encourage anyone who is able to work from home to do so.

For people who must continue to travel to their workplace, workplaces should ensure that all workers and customers maintain an appropriate physical distance and wear masks where appropriate. Henry said extra precautions should be taken in small offices, break rooms and kitchens, as transmission of the virus has been noted in these spaces.

Party buses and limousines should stop running immediately. For those companies, Henry said the restrictions could extend beyond two weeks.

What about religious gatherings?

The restrictions do not apply to religious gatherings, as long as the physical distance can be maintained and the gatherings remain under 50 people.

Why are the schools not closed?

Henry said keeping schools open is a priority and that schools are not currently a major source of transmission in the province.

But she has long said that the community’s spread will be reflected in schools, which is why it’s important to shut down environments where the spread is detected, especially private gatherings.

“We need to keep essential services and activities – from schools to workplaces – open and operate safely. And for the moment, that is in danger, ”she declared at the press conference on Saturday.

What triggered the new restrictions?

The number of COVID-19 cases in British Columbia has increased steadily since the summer. But Henry and Dix said the growth is now exponential, meaning cases are increasing sharply over time rather than increasing in a linear and predictable fashion.

On Saturday, the province reported 567 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death. There were 589 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, up from 425 on Thursday and 334 on Wednesday.

The majority of cases are concentrated in the Fraser Health Region, but COVID-19 is spreading to all health regions in the province.

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