With increased transmissions of COVID-19 across the province, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has expanded a set of restrictions imposed on the Lower Mainland to cover the entire province, as well as introducing a mandatory mask order for all indoor public and retail spaces.
The new restrictions, which will be in effect at least until midnight on Dec. 7, primarily affect social gatherings, a number of events, travel, certain businesses and places of worship.
Effective at midnight on Thursday, Nov. 19, all social gatherings must be restricted to household members — those in your “core bubble” — only. Social gatherings of any size, even outdoors, are prohibited.
“But it’s OK to go for a walk outside with a friend. … It’s OK to go fix the furnace at your mother’s house. Those aren’t social gatherings,” Henry said.
Some businesses, recreation centres and other places that host indoor group physical activities must suspend the activities. These include spin classes, hot yoga and high intensity interval training. The order allows other group actvities to continue with approved COVID-19 safety plans, such as dance classes, martial arts and cheerleading.
Henry also introduced a new order mandating mask wearing in indoor public and retail spaces, including employees and customers, except while eating or drinking at a table. When entering a business or leaving the table, masks must be worn by customers. Masks need not be worn at desks at workplaces, but must be worn by employees when they move about the workplace. The order does not apply to children under the age of two years old.
Events, including art shows, music and theatre performances, performative arts, and similar events are ordered to be suspended, however some exemptions, such as movie theatres operating within guidelines, have been made.
A provincewide travel advisory has also been put in place and Henry has asked people to “stay put” and limit movement to essential travel only. The province says essential travel includes regular travel for work within your region and travel for medical appointments and hospital visits. The province is adivising people not to travel for vacations or to visit friends or family.
“Stay as much as possible within your local area,” Henry said, noting all recreational or social travel for the next two weeks is to be suspended.
Church and other worship services are also now restricted provincewide, with no in-person services allowed to take place. Some exceptions include weddings, baptisms and funerals; however, these events must be restricted to a maximum of 10 people, with no reception or celebration permitted.
Events that would normally take place inside a church or religious facility, however, are allowed to continue with previous measures in place, including AA or NA groups, child-care or after-school programs.
Other measures taken on Thursday (Nov. 19) include increased inspections of businesses, the creation of a rapid response group, a halt to bringing people working from home back into the workplace and more scrutiny on bars and pubs, which Henry said could also be shuttered if transmission is occurring.
A number of changes with regards to sports have also been made, including travel restrictions and barring spectators from attending events.
Henry said changes to schools, restaurants and some personal service businesses, such as barbershops and hair and nail salons, are not needed because that is not where transmission is happening when the measures currently in place are being followed.
“So we want to keep those businesses open and functioning safely,” Henry said.
Henry said transmission has been seen at some light industrial and other worksites, including food processing plants, lumber yards, car dealerships and even grocery stores, with clusters sometimes amounting to one or two people and sometimes upwards of 50. She said these kinds of transmissions are typically not with members of the public, however, and are instead between workers, who gather in small break rooms, carpool together or have in-person meetings.
Over the next two weeks, Henry said the goal will be to reduce social interactions in the workplace and ensure active daily screenings are done.