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City of Vancouver closing most municipal facilities; asks bars, restaurants to limit patrons

Last Updated Mar 16, 2020 at 5:22 pm PDT

The Cambie Street entryway into the grounds at Vancouver's City Hall in the spring of 2019. (Source: Espe Currie/NEWS 1130)
Summary

The city-wide shut-down comes into effect at 1:30 p.m March 16

Park Board community centres, pools, fitness centres, ice rinks, and golf courses will be closed, as will civic theatres

All Vancouver Public Library locations will be closed

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The City of Vancouver has closed all ‘non-essential’ municipal facilities, including all libraries and community centres due to concern over COVID-19.

The announcement followed similar moves by Surrey, Delta, West Vancouver and Port Coquitlam.

The city-wide shut-down took effect Monday and will remain so until further notice.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have made the decision to suspend many non-essential programs and close most civic facilities,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “Now more than ever, we need to be thinking of how we can help each other. If you have an elderly neighbour, or someone who has medical issues, ask them if they’re OK, ask them if they need anything.”

Attractions

Local attractions like VanDusen Botanical Gardens, the Bloedel Conservatory and the Stanley Park Train are also closed, as are all civic theatres.

Library fines will be suspended and refunds are available for anyone registered in a program at an affected facility.

Exceptions

Stewart said there are several exceptions: food shelter and hygiene programs in the Downtown Eastside will remain open, daycare and childcare programs will continue to run, spring break day camps will continue, and public washrooms located in city parks will stay open.

 

Bars and restaurants

The mayor is also advising people to avoid bars and restaurants if they can’t ensure they’ll be able to keep a metre distance from others.

“If they’re going to their favourite bar and restaurant and it’s usually a packed place and they can’t keep their safe social distance, they shouldn’t go,” he said on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day.

“For those businesses that are remaining open, if they don’t think they can ensure that there’s safe social distance for other patrons, they should reduce their capacity.”

Emergency services

Meanwhile, the fire department is preparing to stop responding to the site of non-critical medical calls in order to preserve its resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vancouver Fire Chief Darrell Reid said Monday the department is looking at changing its service model so that firefighters only respond to the most critical medical calls, which may include COVID-19 cases in the future.

The idea is to triage calls to ensure the department can still respond to major fires and other emergencies, he added.

Under a triage system, he says emergency calls will be prioritized using a scoring system based on severity.

Vulnerable population

As for ongoing efforts to protect Vancouver’s homeless population, Stewart said next steps could include procuring hotel space for them.

“That’s why it’s important to know from the federal and provincial governments what funding lines are available and not kind of theoretical funding lines, but actual funding lines. How does this money that you’re promising is going to come down to the municipal level? What resources are available and how they can come to us.”

He said he plans to ask Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland about that during a phone call with her Tuesday.

Sandra Singh, Vancouver’s general manager of arts, culture and community services, added outreach workers are trying to keep the city’s homeless safe.

“We have a really robust community service sector and some places funded by public agencies and charitable giving or other types of revenue sources and so, connecting all the dots between those community service organizations is really important to us right now,” she said.