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Ottawa takes harm reduction approach as B.C. extends COVID-19 orders into 2021

Last Updated Dec 8, 2020 at 7:46 am PST

Farm decorated with Christmas lights. (iStock Photo)

While Ottawa Public Health is urging people not to gather with those outside their households, it acknowledges some will

Ottawa Public Health pleads with people to stay home but says if they are gathering, they should do so safely

B.C. extended its COVID-19 orders until Jan. 8, continuing to urge people not to travel and to not gather

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As many people across the country begin putting together smaller holiday plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some jurisdictions are taking more of a harm reduction approach, acknowledging not everyone will follow public health guidelines not to travel.

While it is urging people to follow the rules, Ottawa Public Health is trying to be heard by all Ottawa-area residents, noting there are people who will choose to ignore the rules over the holidays and see family and friends regardless of the circumstances.

“This holiday season we’re strongly advising that you only gather in person with members of your household. If you live alone, 1-2 close supports are ok,” the authority says in a tweet.

“We know some of you may choose to gather w/family (sic) from outside your household & some of you may travel. Don’t do that,” it adds in the Twitter thread opting to bring a little levity to the conversation.

“But if you do, we can’t stress enough how vital it is that you be as safe as possible. Wear masks at all times (preferably w/3 (sic) layers). Remain outdoors when possible. And please consider those who may be at higher risk in your family and make good choices to protect them.”

Extension of COVID-19 measures in B.C.

The messaging comes at a difficult time for many Canadians who are now weighing the options of risking it and visiting loved ones or following public health pleas to stay home.

On Monday, B.C. Provincial Health Officer Doctor Bonnie Henry announced an extension of COVID-19 restrictions on gathering and visiting through the holidays, but not everyone plans to follow the rules.

Discussions over the extended restrictions have dominated some community groups and online threads.

Comments on stories about the restriction have been mixed online, with some applauding the province’s move to carry orders over to the new year and others expressing their anger over the decision.

“It will stop my family. We will follow the rules as well to get through this,” one Facebook user writes.

“Half the province will go to jail this xmas (sic). No one will obey these ridiculous draconian illegitimate rules,” reads another online comment.

Others are furious with those ignoring the rules when so many people are making sacrifices, and yet there are still some who are unclear about what’s allowed and what’s not.

As part of the extension of measures, British Columbians should not be gathering indoors with people outside their immediate households over the holidays. Some exceptions apply, for example if a person lives alone, they may have one or two people they can see socially.

Measures will remain in place until at least Jan. 8, 2021.

Henry is pleading with everyone to avoid all non-essential travel, even between communities. There is no official ban on travel at the moment.

Signage on a B.C. highway urges people to avoid all non-essential travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ryan Lidemark, NEWS 1130 Photo)

On Monday, a poll from the Angus Reid Institute found that many people were still planning to visit with friends and family — even travel to see them — over the holiday season.

While a majority of respondents said they would be planning a “more solitary” Christmas, about three-in-10 said they planned to visit people outside their households.

-With files from Kathryn Tindale