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Here is why B.C. isn't likely to see spring's COVID-19 lockdown restrictions again

"We haven't had outbreaks related to restaurants--when the rules are followed."
Two downtown apartment neighbours waving to each other during shelter-in-place orders due to the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Photo: Getty Images

Despite announcing record-breaking daily numbers in B.C.'s COVID-19 updates, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. won't return to its former spring restrictions. 

Today, B.C.'s top doctor announced 1,959 new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the province, setting a new record high. However, she told reporters that several lessons since the early stages of the pandemic have been successfully applied in various sectors.

"The difference between what we were thinking about in April and what we know now, are we know that there are many things that can continue to happen safely,"
said Henry. "We know we can safely go to schools. We haven't had outbreaks related to restaurants--when the rules are followed."

Henry stated that staying in small groups, keeping distance, and wearing masks have been effective measures in preventing the spread of the virus. She added that adjusting closing hours has contributed to a safer environment in restaurants and bars because people tend to drink more in the evening and flout the rules. 

"So we took measures to put things in place that made those environments safe. Things like hair salons and nail salons and barbershops--when the rules are followed and when people are following the COVID-19 safety plans--wearing masks, having limited numbers of people and having gaps between people--we're not seeing transmission of this virus," she explained. 

While we are in a different place than we were in April, Henry added that "we need to be thinking the same vibe as we were in April." 

As the mercury dips in B.C., Henry cautioned people to rethink the way they gather, reinforcing the health order she issued on Nov. 7: "We've learned that this virus spreads quite easily in the colder weather, it spreads indoors.

"So when we're coming together with people indoors, wearing masks in these social settings--whether it's in our home, or whether it's in the lunchroom or carpooling to work or talking with the other parents in the indoor volleyball game that our kids are playing--those are settings now that we're seeing transmission."

British Columbians are advised to shrink their circles again and keep their families close, and not have unsafe connections with larger numbers of people.  

"So that's what I meant by needing to go back, needing to refocus our social interactions--so we can keep those really important things in our community, like our surgery restart, like our schools--continuing to function better."

New Public Health Order 

The new provincial health orders restrict social gatherings of any size with anyone outside of your immediate household, as well as indoor group physical activities, including yoga, spin, group fitness and dance classes.

Basically, indoor locations "where people are increasing their heart rate," Henry said. "We have seen repeatedly, not just here, but around the world, that these are venues that we see the rapid spread of this virus, even with people who don't recognize that they are ill."

That ban also applies to indoor competitions and games where physical distancing cannot be maintained, including sports such as minor hockey. However, Henry said, "these activities can be replaced with the individual exercise of practice and drills," as B.C. similarly permitted before the province's restart of its sports programs, so long as it "allows everyone to maintain safe physical distancing." 

Public health officials are also recommending "in the very strongest terms" that British Columbians avoid travel into and out of the two health regions. "We need to go back to what we were doing in March and April and May, where it was essential travel only," Henry said. 

That includes a ban on travelling into or outside of the two health regions for sports, for the time being. 

Restaurants are permitted to remain open for the time being, on the condition that each establishment adheres to COVID-19 safety plans. If that isn't possible, Henry suggested that they revert to take-out only service.

Party buses and limousines are also ordered to cease operations for the two-week period. 

--With files from Megan Lalonde.