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More COVID-19 restrictions coming to BC

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 4:51 PST, Thu November 19, 2020

Last Updated: 5:05 PST, Thu November 19, 2020

After restrictions announced Nov. 7 failed to curtail case numbers, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is bringing in more province-wide changes today.

“We have not seen a dramatic decrease (in daily numbers), and what we have seen is an increase in strains on our healthcare system,” said Henry.

Masks will be mandatory for staff and customers in all indoor public and retail spaces, as well as public areas such as elevators and hallways in workplaces. Henry said enforcement on workplace measures will be enhanced, with shutdowns and fines happening as necessary if workplaces are not following safety plan guidelines.

All community-based social gatherings or events are also suspended for the next two weeks, including those with less than 50 people in controlled settings. This suspension also extends to faith-based gatherings at churches and other places of worship.

“This is one of those things that we do very reluctantly,” Henry said of suspending faith-based gatherings.

Additionally, existing orders in place in the Lower Mainland (comprising the Vancouver Public Health and Fraser Health regions) will be extended for an additional two weeks until midnight Dec. 7. Those orders will also be applied province-wide to all other health authorities during the same time period.

What she called “unnecessary, non-essential” travel will also be curtailed, and people are asked to stay in their local community as much as possible for the next two weeks. 

Some physical activities have also been suspended temporarily, including high-risk indoor options like high intensity interval training, hot yoga and group spin classes. All other indoor group fitness classes will be required to follow enhanced guidelines that will be released soon, replacing the need to have individual plans approved by the medical health office.

Other sporting events will be required to stay in Phase 3 of the ViaSport plan, but with no spectators at any events and no travel outside the local community.

“Transmission in schools as been very low, and we know that schools are incredibly important for families and students,” Henry said.

She added she has established a task force in the Lower Mainland to keep up with school exposure events, identifying and managing these as quickly as possible.

Public health teams will continue to look at other possible places of transmission, including bars, with the possibility of further measures if necessary. Henry also said the new orders may be extended for a longer period of time, since two weeks only represents one incubation period of the virus.

“If we can bring things down to a manageable level, that’s our goal.”

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