B.C. officials have rolled out a number of new orders in their latest attempt to curb the rising number of new COVID-19 cases as the province tides the waters of the pandemic’s second wave.
“As we approach the darkest days of this year, we know there is light at the end of the tunnel,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters Thursday (Nov. 19).
She urged British Columbians to follow the rules ahead of the holidays but didn’t rule out that the latest orders could be extended beyond their current Dec. 7 deadline if daily case counts don’t decrease enough.
Here’s a look at the biggest changes, which took effect at midnight Thursday.
1. Mandatory mask mandate
Masks are now required in public indoor and retail spaces. Henry asked the Public Safety Ministry to implement the order under the ongoing state of emergency to make face coverings mandatory. The mandate would exclude those who cannot wear masks due to a medical issue or disability, as well as children under the age of two.
The mask policy is not in effect in B.C. schools.
2. No events or social gatherings with anyone outside of your household
All indoor and outdoor community and social events have been suspended for the next two weeks. This includes events that include fewer than 50 people – the previous threshold for social gatherings – with the only exceptions being funerals, weddings and baptisms so long as fewer than 10 people attend without a reception.
The order already in place in Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions on social gatherings has also been expanded B.C.-wide. Moving forward British Columbians should restrict their socializing to immediate household members. Those who live alone are being encouraged to stick to one or two close friends at most.
3. Non-essential travel not recommended
If British Columbians don’t have to travel for essential reasons, they are being asked to stay within their community.
“If you live in Penticton, you can go to Summerland. If you live in Victoria, though, and you want to go to Tofino, then not such a good idea right now,” Henry explained. “If you want to go to a store in another community, then plan ahead and go as infrequently as possible.”
Those who are travelling to B.C. from other provinces are also being asked to keep their contact to immediate household members only.
4. Some gym classes suspended until further notice
Some gym classes have been suspended until further notice. While a similar order has been in place in the Fraser Health region for a week, the new order impacts the entire province, specifically for high-intensity interval training, hot yoga and spin classes.
Meanwhile, WorkSafeBC will be increasing its inspections of gyms and other businesses to ensure adequate health protocols are being followed.
5. No spectators allowed at sports games, no travel outside your community
Whether indoors or outdoors, spectators will have to stay home when it comes to recreational sports. Travel outside of an athlete’s community to another in order to play a sport is also prohibited for two weeks.
“If you are in doubt, postpone it to a time when we have better management of the transmissions that we’re seeing in our communities right now,” Henry said.
“You can play the games within your own region only, and there’s no travel between different areas. That is where we’re seeing the risk. The risk is people car-pooling together, having to stay overnight.”
The order is not applicable for high-performance athletes if they have been training prior to Thursday.
6. Faith services suspended
All in-person faith services will be put on hold until Dec. 7. This doesn’t mean that people cannot visit churches or temples, Henry said, so long as health safety protocols are in place.
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