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B.C. gets new public health orders on gatherings, wearing masks

Provincial health officer strongly advises not travel outside a home health region for non-essential reasons
Dr. Bonnie Henry
Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry has been providing updates on the COVID-19 situation in B.C. |

Social gatherings and activities will be temporarily restricted across B.C. thanks to a spate of new public health orders issued by provincial health officer Bonnie Henry on November 19.

Some new orders include that:
• fitness facilities, such as spin-class businesses and hot yoga studios, will be ordered to close;
• all community-based social gatherings, or events, will be suspended provincewide for the next two weeks, including those with fewer than 50 people, and those in controlled settings;
• people will have to wear masks in all indoor public retail and commercial spaces, not only for staff but also for customers;
• people provincewide are not allowed to travel to play group sports outside their community; and
• there are to be no spectators at sporting events.

The orders are in effect starting tonight at midnight, until December 7, although they may be extended. 

Henry made it sound like she was putting in place an order that all British Columbians avoid non-essential travel outside their home health region until December 7, but she clarified that it was not an official order, and the province's website lists that restriction as a "travel advisory," which means that Henry continues to recommend against such travel in the strongest possible terms but that travel is not officially banned. Travel for work is what she said is essential. 

"We trust people to take the right actions," she said. 

The order on masks includes retail stores, commercial buildings and in spaces such as elevators. She said that workers do not need to wear masks at their desks.

Henry did not mention residential buildings or elevators in those buildings, and said masks will not be mandatory in schools because they are not places where the public is able to walk in. 

She said her health order against group activities includes houses of worship. She said that individuals are still able to go to these places if they book in advance or otherwise ensure that they are not in a group. Funerals and weddings may go ahead if there are a maximum of 10 people, and no receptions. 

"The main focus of these measures is to reduce our social interaction [and limit the spread of COVID-19,]" she said. 

Henry said that inspections and audits of businesses, to ensure that they are complying with COVID-19 safety plans, will be stepped up. Businesses that are not in compliance will be ordered to close and potentially fined. 

"The bottom line is we will be extending the orders and directions that are placed in Vancouver Coastal [Health] and Fraser Health for an additional two weeks, and so that takes us through to midnight on December 7," Henry said. "In addition, we are going to be extending these orders to apply province-wide."


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