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B.C. South Asian community hit harder by COVID-19: top doctor

Last Updated Nov 12, 2020 at 3:03 pm PDT


B.C.'s top doctor says the province's South Asian community is getting COVID-19 at a higher rate

Large events are part of the cause, but Dr. Bonnie Henry notes many in the community are working in essential services

Diwali traditions like dropping gifts off to relatives or hosting a prayer are not permitted this year

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — B.C.’s South Asian community is being impacted by COVID-19 at higher rates than others, according to the provincial health officer.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said the increase of cases in the South Asian community is mainly due to weddings and celebration-of-life events.

“It’s not in any way to blame the community,”  she told a group of South Asian reporters during a teleconference this week. “But now we need to take measures to protect the community because it is transmitted in the South Asian community more so than we are seeing in other people right now.”

However, Henry notes gatherings aren’t the only contributing factors.

“Many people in the South Asian community live in Surrey and areas around there, and also own and work in many of the essential businesses that have kept our province going, whether it’s food-production or trucking or working in health care.”

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Henry stressed the virus doesn’t recognize the community, but rather how the people interact.

“[COVID-19] recognizes the situations and gatherings that are happening that have allowed it to spread,” she added.

She explained the province began seeing this increase near the middle of October, close to the Thanksgiving long weekend in many areas, including the Fraser Health region.

The bulk of B.C.’s infections have been in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions, which are currently under temporary COVID-19 restrictions.

Celebrate Diwali safely, at home

In order to avoid further transmission of the virus, community leaders are asking the South Asian community to stay home this Diwali.

Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman is pleading with families to celebrate Diwali at home on Nov. 14, saying British Columbians need to get serious about health measures.

“Diwali is all about getting together, whether you’re a resident or in a business. But we need to make sacrifices now to reduce the number of virus cases,” Huberman said.

Diwali traditions like dropping gifts off to relatives or hosting a prayer are not permitted this year.

“It means if you want to see your family, do it digitally. Do prayers in your own house with people you live with. If you want to go to the temple, perhaps make a donation to the temple of your choice,” Huberman said.

-With files from Travis Prasad