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Home gatherings restricted in Metro Vancouver health regions

Last Updated Nov 8, 2020 at 8:33 am PDT

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (Courtesy B.C. Government, Flickr)

First regional COVID-19 orders issued for Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health areas, 567 new cases reported

Social gatherings of any size in private homes with outside visitors not allowed, indoor group activities banned

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Social gatherings of any size with people outside the immediate household aren’t allowed in private homes in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions as part of a two-week provincial health order issued Saturday.

This is one part of the first regional COVID-19 order issued for the two largest health authorities in the province where case counts have been surging in the second wave of the pandemic.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the order will start at 10 p.m. Saturday in the two regions and last until Nov. 23 at 3 p.m. in order to “give us a chance to stop transmission” of the virus.

The Central Coast and Bella Coola Valley are exempt from the order.

RELATED: B.C. breaks daily COVID-19 record for two straight days as second wave swells

Henry broke down the orders into four sections, which came as the province reported 567 new COVID-19 cases and one death.

There continues to be transmission in various workplace settings, in people’s homes, and in health-care facilities across the Lower Mainland, Henry said. She stressed the need to maintain capacity in the province’s health-care systems.

“The result is that we are seeing a steady increase, and worrisome increase of people with a serious illness requiring hospitalization and intensive care, the outset of our pandemic.”

“As a result, we will be taking further actions, and we must now step back from our restart activities,” Henry added. “Here, in particular, in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions to avoid the serious consequences for all of us, not just in this region, but around the province.”

However, enforcement essentially depends on people policing themselves.

No visitors to private homes

Residents in the Fraser and VCH regions need to “significantly reduce” their social interactions, Henry said.

Regardless of the size, gathering in private homes with anyone outside the immediate household isn’t allowed for the two-week period.

RELATED: B.C. limits size of gatherings in private homes, sets weekend record with 817 COVID-19 cases

“This includes indoor gatherings of fewer than 50 people, even in controlled settings, so it supersedes our mass gathering order that we have had in place for some time,” Henry said.

Funerals and weddings can happen, but only with people in immediate households.

“We need to stop our social connections, where we, unfortunately, are seeing this virus spread and spread to those that we are closest to and that we care most about,” Henry said.

Bars and restaurants can still stay open, however, party buses and limos aren’t allowed to operate.

Essential travel only 

Henry “highly recommends” travelling to and from the two regions is limited to essential purposes only.

“We have flattened our curve in the past, and we will do it again. And it’s going to be a challenge for all of us, but we must do it together. This next two weeks will be critical for us, and I am calling on all of you to do this together, to do our part, and to remember how important it is to do this by being kind to each other, by staying calm, and by being safe,” she says.

Those who live outside the region, are asked not to visit.

Workplace safety revisited

Henry said businesses will need to revisit COVID-19 safety plans and ensure protocols are being followed. The province will be working with WorkSafe BC, public health inspectors, and bylaw officers to make sure that is happening while inspections are being increased.

While Henry noted the difficulties restrictions bring, she emphasized the impact it can have on keeping businesses open heading into winter.

“We know that this has been hard for businesses, we have seen measures slip in some businesses and that has led to transmission,” she said. “We need to redouble our efforts, as we are seeing multiple places where this is being transmitted within those settings and then spill over into healthcare settings into our families, into our communities.”

Workplaces ignored the orders will be shut down, Henry said.

Indoor group activities banned

Indoor group activities are being banned, which includes ones held by businesses, recreation centres, or any other organizations that hold them.

“This, unfortunately, is an area where we have seen spread in multiple different settings,” Henry said.

“This includes spin classes, yoga classes, group fitness dance classes, or other group indoor activities where people are increasing their heart rate. We have seen repeatedly, not just here, but around the world that these are venues that we see rapid spread of this virus, even with people who don’t recognize that they are ill,” she added.

Henry said fitness centres and classes could open in a week if safety protocols are adequate.

One new COVID-19 outbreak 

Henry reported a new outbreak at the Residence In Mission, meaning there are now 37 active outbreaks in B.C.’s health-care system.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 17,716 confirmed cases of the virus in B.C. and 276 deaths.

Of the new cases, 122 were in Vancouver Coastal Health while 411 were in the Fraser Health region. Three were in Island Health, 22 were in the Interior, and nine were in Northern held.