Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has announced sweeping new restrictions across swaths of southwest British Columbia over what she described as a critical two week period.
For the third straight day, B.C. has broken daily COVID-19 caseload records, with 567 cases reported over the last 24 hours. The rising caseloads reflect a shift to exponential transmission of the virus across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley.
The new orders focus on travel, businesses, social gatherings and indoor group exercises like yoga or spin classes but also indoor competition sports like minor hockey.
“Parties, events — right now for the next two weeks, those are not to happen,” said Dr. Henry.
Social gatherings must now be restricted to direct members of a household.
The new restrictions apply to all of Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health, excluding the Central Coast region centred on Bella Coola. They come into effect Saturday, Nov. 7, at 10 p.m. and extend until Monday, Nov. 23, at noon.
Regarding restrictions to essential travel only to and from the affected regions, Dr. Henry said, “It’s a recommendation in the very strongest terms.”
“We need to go back to what we were doing in March, April and May,” said Dr. Henry. “We bring our risk with us and we take our risk back with us when we return.”
Weddings and funerals can proceed but must be restricted to immediate members of a household. Restrictions on restaurants will not change; however, Dr. Henry said enforcement will be stepped up.
“Now is the time we need to all pull back in this region and make sure we’re following those safety plans,” she said.
Party bus companies and group limousine services have been ordered to close.
Restrictions on indoor group sports apply to recreation centres and gyms, anywhere where people gather indoors and get their heart rates up, unless the sports is connected to a school program.
“They need to either stop or show that they have an approved safety plan,” said Dr. Henry, adding that enforcement will be stepped up and that now is the time for businesses of all stripes to review and update their health and safety plans.