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One COVID-19 death as B.C. clarifies rules for restaurants, bars

Last Updated Jun 12, 2020 at 10:16 pm PST

FILE - Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (Courtesy B.C. Government)

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — The province announced changes to the food and liquor service sector Friday in response to small clusters of new COVID-19 cases in businesses.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix, in a joint statement, didn’t say how many clusters there were or the number of businesses affected, but reported 16 new cases for 2,709 overall.

The province also recorded one death, in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, following six straight days without one. The total in B.C. is up to 168.

The adjustments to requirements for the food and liquor service sector go with enhanced worker guidelines through WorkSafeBC.

“We have been monitoring our COVID-19 restart activities closely and are modifying our approach as we move forward. This includes amending the provincial health officer’s order for food and liquor service establishments to make restaurants and pubs safer for employees and patrons,” Henry and Dix say.

“The requirements for this sector have been adjusted in response to small clusters of new cases in businesses, as employees spend more time together and in recognition that a safe number of patrons is highly dependent on the amount of space within each location, not the restaurant capacity.”

On Thursday, Henry announced a new order making it easier for restaurants and bars to do business by doing away with the one-size-fits-all, 50-per-cent capacity limit.

Those rules still cap overall numbers in bars and restaurants at 50 people, but allow more freedom for businesses to set their own capacity limits, with groups capped at six people.

Henry and Dix say the best way to avoid spreading the virus is to ensure everyone has the space to stay safe.

“Food-service owners need to remember that protecting your employees and patrons requires layers of protection in the kitchen and in the dining area. Plans need to include such things as frequent handwashing, increased cleaning, using barriers in kitchens and dining areas, and giving lots of space between tables,” they say.

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Henry and Dix also advised people visiting such establishments to ensure they and everyone in their group is healthy and to ensure a WorkSafeBC safety plan is posted.

“We all want to stay safe and we all have a role to play. The decisions we make and the actions we take will protect our communities and allow us to continue to progress.”

B.C. has 187 cases, with 12 people in hospital, including three in intensive care.

To date, 2,354 people who tested positive have recovered — a rate of 87 per cent.

The province reported no new health-care facility and no community outbreaks. In total, five long-term care or assisted-living facilities continue to have active outbreaks.

-with files from Paul James.