Residents of B.C.’s Lower Mainland are parsing through strict new restrictions on the region, amid a new COVID-19 order meant to curb a surge in cases.
The two-week order bans social gatherings with people outside one’s household, suspends indoor group physical activities and freezes competitive team sports where physical distancing can’t be maintained.
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B.C. bans all social gatherings, indoor group physical activities in Lower Mainland amid surging COVID cases
It applies to most of the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions — where new case numbers have dwarfed other parts of the province.
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It also comes days before Diwali, the Nov. 14 festival of light that is a key annual celebration for tens of thousands of the region’s South Asian residents.
Vancouver’s Diwali Fest — like the city’s pride parade — had already pivoted to an online model, but creative director Kriti Dewan said there’s no doubt the situation will affect the holiday which typically sees large gatherings of family and friends.
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‘Social gathering,’ ‘household’ clarified under new Lower Mainland COVID-19 order
“I think digital celebrations, having kind of Diwali dinners or drinks and meet and greets over Zoom is a great way to do it within your immediate family bubble,” she said.
“We’re not hosting any large-scale fireworks events this year … (so) just taking some sparklers and just create a memory in your back yard, and make some great little Instagram videos.”
Following the new restrictions announced by the PHO, all hockey games in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Valley Health regions are to be cancelled/postponed effective 10pm tonight until further notice.Were working with @viaSportBC and will provide further updates when available
— BC Hockey (@BCHockey_Source) November 7, 2020
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Young athletes are also grappling with what the changes mean, as competitive indoor sports like hockey face a two-week pause.
ViaSport, the group that oversees B.C. amateur sport, says socially-distanced drills, practices and individual exercises may continue.
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Ermolai was one of many young hockey players at the Richmond Oval on Sunday adjusting to the change.
“I’ll be really sad. There’s nothing to do. Hockey is like my life, I practice every day,” he said.
“I’ll have nothing to do. Practice in my back yard or something. My hockey skills, stick-handling, whatever.”
The region’s recreation centres are also making big changes, with indoor group physical activities suspended.
“You’re still able to attend a gym or visit a library or use other civic services like that, just not group activities or sports where physical distancing can’t be maintained,” said Vancouver Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung.
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Individual gym activities, such as weights or one-on-one personal training, are also unaffected.
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Lower Mainland rec centres suspend group physical activities amid new COVID-19 order
“I know there was some confusion relating to people’s ability to socialize, inside your household, outside your household,” she added.
“I think the city is getting clarity as everyone is as we go along, and we will adapt as we need to.”
One sector not anticipating big changes is the restaurant industry, which provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said can stay open, so long as they adhere to their COVID-19 safety guidelines and visitors only come with their households.
B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association president Ian Tostenson said six-person limits, and the guideline that people only visit with their households was already in place.
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“What we really believe the health officer Dr. Henry is trying to achieve is stopping people from having private parties in their home where you can’t control social distancing,” he said.
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“Restaurants have done an extraordinary job in terms of using plexiglass, keeping tables six feet apart and all the safety protocols they have in place.”
Despite that, Tostenson welcomed further safety protocols, such as possibly requiring patrons to wear a mask when not at their table.
If restaurants aren’t following the guidelines, he added, they should be shut down.
There has already been some confusion about the strict definition of the order, including what is meant by “household and “social gathering,” along with conflicting messages from the province and the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
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The new order is also so broad that enforcing it fully would be a gargantuan effort for the province.
Henry appeared to concede that Saturday, saying the province was counting on people adhering to the rules on their own, though noting police, bylaw officers and public health officials do have enforcement powers.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West said his community has activated its bylaw officers to step in where needed, but added that 99 per cent of incidents to date have been resolved with little issue.
“It’s disappointing any time we have to take a step backwards. A lot of people were beginning to resume some of their normal activities,” Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West told Global News.
“I do think its the right decision. We’re seeing numbers that had been unthinkable to us previously, so obviously something needed to change.”
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West doesn’t appear to be alone in that opinion.
A poll released Saturday by Insights West found 80 per cent of British Columbians supported new regional “lockdowns,” should case numbers continue to worsen significantly.
Seventy-nine per cent supported the temporary closure of gyms and indoor recreational facilities, while 66 per cent backed closing public schools under the same circumstances.
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A smaller majority also backed more severe measures, including closing all but essential businesses (61 per cent) and curfews (54 per cent).
“Almost eight months later, we have people who are just as worried about COVID-19 and getting it,” said Insights West president Steve Mossop.
“We compare that back to march and its still 84 per cent of us who are worried about COVID-19 and that has translated into tremendous support for our leaders and the decisions they’re making on our part to keep us safe.”
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