B.C. health officials try to clear up confusion over COVID-19 restrictions

VICTORIA — British Columbia health officials are working to clear up confusion surrounding COVID-19 restriction guidelines announced last week.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix spent part of their news conference Monday explaining what counts as an event or social gathering.

article continues below

Non-essential travel is not recommended across the province, and worship services along with community and social events have been suspended.

Henry and Dix announced 1,933 new cases of COVID-19 over the past three days, along with 17 additional deaths for a total of 348 people since the pandemic began.

It brings the provincial total of those who have tested positive to 27,407, with 7,360 active cases.

Groups ranging from religious organizations to theatres have expressed confusion over the specifics of the restrictions announced last week, including what counts as an event.

The Catholic archdiocese of Vancouver issued a statement Sunday criticizing what it called its different treatment compared with other indoor gatherings.

Archbishop J. Michael Miller said in the statement that the church finds it "baffling" that they are being asked to close while restaurants and bars are allowed to stay open.

Theatres, such as Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre Company, have issued open letters asking why they are being asked to close when other venues have not.

Henry said she understands the concerns and compared the pandemic response to an Ironman race, which involves swimming, cycling and a marathon.

B.C. is currently in the cycling stage, she said, adding that there is still a long way to go until life resumes a sense of normalcy.

"I'm asking people to focus on the intent of the orders, what we're trying to do together now to address what we are seeing in our pandemic here in B.C.," Henry said, adding that she wants people to not focus on trying to get around the health orders.

There is increased COVID-19 transmission among groups that meet indoors, making it particularly important to restrict social gatherings, she said.

Dix emphasized that the orders may seem restrictive but they're being taken to protect the wider public.

"We wouldn't be asked to take action right now if it didn't have an immediate impact on our health, our safety and our future," he said.

"We certainly wouldn't have asked to make this sacrifice if it didn't save lives."

The health orders are scheduled to end on Dec. 7 at midnight.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020.

© Copyright Alaska Highway News