In response to record numbers of COVID-19 cases in British Columbia, British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer has imposed province-wide restrictions that affect both individuals and businesses. These restrictions follow the two-week restrictions imposed on the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions.
Effective from Thursday, November 19, 2020 at midnight to Monday December 7, 2020 at midnight (the “Restricted Period”), all events and social gatherings in British Columbia are suspended and individuals and businesses are required to significantly limit social interactions and travel. British Columbia’s state of emergency has been extended to December 8, 2020.
The Provincial Health Officer has appealed to British Columbians to “focus on the intent” of the restrictions - namely to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 - when conducting themselves.
During the Restricted Period, all in-person events and community-based gatherings (indoor or outdoor, including galas, theatre performances, seasonal activities and holiday events, silent auctions, religious in-person gatherings and worship services, and movie viewings in cinemas) are suspended subject to some exceptions:
- Funerals, weddings and baptisms may proceed with a limited number of people and a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place. A maximum of 10 people may attend, including the officiant. Receptions are prohibited regardless of venue or location (i.e. public or private space, indoors or outdoors).
- Formal meetings, including civic or municipal council meetings, support groups, and business meetings may continue with COVID-19 safety protocols in place, although virtual meetings are encouraged.
- Individuals may visit places of worship for individual activities such as contemplation or personal prayer.
Individuals are prohibited from hosting social gatherings of any size at their residence with anyone other than the individual’s core bubble. This includes prohibition on hosting friends or extended family, outdoor gatherings, and children’s playdates.
An individual’s core bubble consists of their immediate household (excluding occupants of separate rental suites, but including roommates) or for individuals living alone, a core bubble can consist of a partner, relative, friend or co-parent who lives in a different household. Where a core bubble is made up of individuals who are not part of an individual’s immediate household, that core bubble should be limited to a maximum of two other people that the individual sees regularly.
The restrictions are not intended to eliminate supportive activities such as picking up children from school, carpooling children to or from school, grandparents providing child care, or delivering essential items such as mail, medication or groceries. Similarly, welcoming children who are studying away at university home is not considered a social gathering and individuals are permitted to go for a walk, provided that it does not turn into a social gathering.
All individuals have been asked to restrict non-essential travel both within and out of British Columbia. According to government press releases, essential travel includes:
- Regular work within an individual’s region; and
- Travel for medical appointments and hospital visits.
Where essential travel is required, individuals are asked to take all safety precautions and should travel alone or with their core bubble only. Individuals travelling to BC from outside of the province should only come for essential reasons. With ski season on the way, British Columbians are encouraged to ski and snowboard at their local mountains only.
With respect to businesses:
- All businesses and worksites must “review and redouble” their efforts with respect to COVID-19 Safety Plans and protocols.
- All businesses must conduct active daily in-person screening of all onsite workers using the COVID-19 symptom check list that should be part of a businesses’ existing safety plan. If an employer has any doubt about a worker’s compliance with the screening the employer must not permit the worker to enter the workplace.
- Employers “must make every effort” to provide work from home options.
- Workplaces must ensure that all workers and customers maintain appropriate distance and wear masks when appropriate. COVID-19 Safety Plan measures must prevent workers from crowding together or congregating in higher risk spaces, including elevators, lobbies, stairwells, corridors, bathrooms, break rooms and kitchens.
- Restaurants, pubs and bars can continue to operate provided that no events take place, COVID-19 Safety Plans and employee protocols are in place, and subject to applicable orders. Individuals from the same core bubble should be eating together.
- Businesses, recreation centres or other organizations that organize or operate high risk indoor group physical activities must suspend all spin classes, hot yoga, and high intensity interval training.
- Businesses, recreation centres, or other organizations that organize or operate other indoor physical activities, including gymnastics, dance, martial arts, yoga, Pilates, strength and conditioning and cheerleading, must suspend these activities while new guidance is being developed, and once issued, such venues must use the new guidance to update and re-post their COVID-19 Safety Plan before resuming operations.
- Gyms and recreation facilities that offer individual workouts and personal training can remain open provided that a COVID-19 Safety Plan is in place and is strictly followed.
- Games, competitions and practices may continue with no spectators (with the exception of those providing care to a participant or player) and with no team travel outside of their community subject to some exceptions for high performance athletes, professional athletes and professional performers who meet the criteria specified in the order.
In a departure from previous practice, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General has also mandated masks in public indoor spaces and retail stores, subject to certain exemptions for individuals with health conditions or who cannot remove a mask on their own, or for children under 12. The places where masks are now required include:
- malls, shopping centres, coffee shops, and retail and grocery stores;
- liquor and drug stores;
- airports, city halls, libraries, community and recreation centres;
- restaurants, pubs and bars;
- places of public worship;
- on public transportation, in a taxi or ride-sharing vehicle;
- common areas of office buildings, court houses, hospitals and hotels;
- common areas of sport and fitness centres when not engaged in physical activity; and
- common areas of post-secondary institutions and non-profit organizations.
Masks may be temporarily removed where necessary to identify the individual wearing the mask, while consuming food or drink, while participating in a sport or fitness activity in a sport facility, or when receiving a personal or health service that requires the mask to be removed.
A mask or face covering is a medical or non-medical mask that covers the nose and mouth. Face shields on their own do not meet the masking requirement, and failure to comply with the masking requirement, refusal to comply with the direction of an enforcement officer, or responding with abusive or belligerent behaviour may result in a $230.00 fine. British Columbians are encouraged to call By-Law officers to report masking violations. Further orders in respect of masks in the common areas of private spaces such as apartment buildings, strata complexes and workplaces are anticipated.
Failure to comply with the November 19, 2020 order may result in enforcement action by police or other officials and the imposition of fines. WorkSafeBC will continue to monitor businesses’ compliance and Environmental Health Officers will focus on workplaces in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions.
We will continue to monitor and provide updates as soon as they become available. The COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving with new measures being adopted or modified at both the federal and provincial level.