British Columbia

B.C. health officials say latest restrictions will mean pause for popular holiday events

Health officials in B.C. say the latest restrictions meant to slow COVID-19 infections will put on hold two popular holiday events in Vancouver.

Stanley Park Christmas Train and VanDusen Garden's Festival of Lights will be on hold until at least Dec. 7

The train in Stanley Park is a popular ride over the Christmas holidays. (David Horemans/CBC)

Health officials in B.C. say the latest restrictions meant to slow COVID-19 infections will put on hold popular holiday events across the province.

On Thursday, the officials brought in sweeping new measures meant to slow the rate of infections.

They included the suspension of all indoor and outdoor community and social events until Dec. 7, even if they're under 50 people.

That means holiday-themed events like Vancouver's Bright Nights in Stanley Park and VanDusen Botanical Garden's Festival of Lights, and the Butchart Garden's holiday display in Victoria will not be able to go ahead until at least Dec. 7.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry acknowledged Monday that most of these events had approved COVID-19 safety plans in place before the new orders.

"The vast majority of event organizers and venues have been doing a great job and have robust COVID-19 safety plans — and we know they've been working," she said.

"But we need to take a pause, whether you call it a circuit break for the next two weeks in this province, all of us need to stop these events and pause so that we can get control of this virus."

She added that she couldn't say how much notice organizers might receive before they get the green light to start up again, as that will depend on how well B.C. is able to stem transmission of the virus.

'Very unfortunate'

Health Minister Adrian Dix addressed the suspension of these events in a message to CBC News on Sunday.

"These are great events, all of them and they (like many others) have worked hard to meet the test of the orders pre-last Thursday," he said.

"It is very unfortunate. Obviously, the provincial health officer will be reviewing the impact on COVID-19 over the next two weeks."

Dix said the new orders are needed now, despite the consequences for holiday events.

"Alas, there are many many gatherings that are beloved and affected."

The VanDusen Botanical Garden Festival of Lights was set to run from Nov. 27 to Jan. 3 2021. (Daniel Beauparlant/CBC)

A Vancouver Park Board spokesperson said on Sunday that anyone who had already purchased tickets to either event would be able to apply for a refund.

Bright Nights in Stanley Park was scheduled to run from Nov. 26 to Jan. 1, while VanDusen Botanical Garden's Festival of Lights was set to begin on Nov. 27 and run until Jan. 3.