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B.C.'s new COVID-19 restrictions on 'social gatherings': What do they mean?

Last Updated Nov 8, 2020 at 5:25 pm PDT

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

A new health order is in effect until Nov. 23 but people in affected regions weren't immediately clear on what it means

Definition of 'social gathering,' 'immediate household' caused the most confusion

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — New restrictions announced for people living in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions Saturday were met with widespread confusion, and the province has now provided answers to some of the most common questions.

The new order is in effect until Nov. 23 but people in the affected regions weren’t immediately clear on how they are being asked to change their lives during this time.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s order says “socialize only with those in your immediate household. No gatherings of any size.

Next, there is a prohibition on inviting people over to private residences. “Do not invite friends or family to your household,” it reads.

But with restaurants and bars remaining open, and the emphasis on visitors to homes, a lot of people were asking: Can I get together with a few people at a restaurant or outdoors?

The answer to both questions is no.

“Under this new order, there are to be no social gatherings of any size with anyone other than your immediate household. That includes outdoors or in restaurants,” says a statement from the Ministry of Health.

But that answer, it turns out, only served to provoke more questions.

The most common: If I live alone, does that mean I can’t see anyone for two weeks?

The answer is no.

According to the province, the definition of ‘immediate household’ can encompass people who do not live together. 

“I know there has been some confusion on what immediate household means.  these would be the people you spend the most time with and are physically close to. These would be people who are part of your regular routine so household members, immediate family, a close friend or the people you have regular close contact with (for example a co-parent who lives outside the household),” a spokesperson for the health ministry says.

“Those who live alone cannot host gatherings, but can continue to see members of what they would consider their immediate household (as described above) at home, outside or at a restaurant.”

When it comes to meeting outdoors, a lot of people wanted to know if they could meet up with someone who is not part of their “immediate household” for a walk.

“Going for a walk is not considered a social gathering, but British Columbians need to be vigilant that a walk doesn’t turn into a group of people meeting outside,” according to the province.

With files from Liza Yuzda