British Columbia

Disappointment, anger, confusion over B.C.'s new COVID-19 restrictions on indoor activities

B.C. restaurants, religious groups and fitness gyms are shifting course from opening up to closing down some indoor services and activities until April 19 after the province's health officials announced new restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19 infections.

Indoor dining, group fitness exercise, religious gatherings on hold

Health officials in B.C. announced indoor dining at restaurants is temporarily on hold until April 19 but patios will be allowed to remain open. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. restaurants, religious groups and group fitness gyms are shifting course from opening up to closing down some services and activities until April 19 after the province's health officials announced new restrictions to stop the increase of COVID-19 infections.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday that the province recorded 2,518 new cases of COVID-19 over the last three days, with a record high of 936 on Saturday.

To combat that growth, B.C's struggling restaurant industry is restricted from serving food and beverages indoors to customers but patrons are allowed to purchase take-out food and dine on patios.

The B.C. government says breweries that serve appetizers and snacks — but no full meals — will have to close entirely unless the business arranges for food to be consumed on a patio through partnerships with food-trucks or restaurants.

No warning given 

The co-owner of Main Street Brewing in Vancouver, Cameron Forsyth, said he is "numb" after hearing the news.

Forsyth said he understands that changes need to be made because of increasing COVID-19 infections but he is disappointed warning wasn't given to businesses.

"My initial reaction was that letting us know the day of that day we will be closing just doesn't work for anyone. We've got food that spoils, we've got staff that are staffed," Forsyth said.

Olivia Weber, the owner of the Naked Café in downtown Kelowna, B.C., says she has been frustrated by what she perceives as Dr. Henry's mischaracterization of people working in the restaurant industry.

"Dr. Bonnie Henry mentioned that servers were having a tough time handling larger groups, mostly in the evening, who had been drinking. We are not that type of establishment., so it's unfortunate," Weber said Tuesday to Chris Walker, the host of CBC's Daybreak South.

The owner of Jambo Grill in Vancouver, Nash Mawani, thought his restaurant had survived the worst of the pandemic after spending the last nine months trying to recover financially from the province's first set of closures last year.

"We are not going to make money but we are going to keep the service going on. I don't mind going through this as long as we are safe," said Mawani.

Indoor adult group fitness is also temporarily prohibited under the new restrictions, but gyms and fitness centres are allowed to operate and offer one-on-one personal training.

Tap the link below to hear Olivia Weber's interview on Daybreak South:

Whistler Blackcomb ski resort closure

Provincial health officials also announced on Monday the closure of Whistler Blackcomb resort until April 19 to limit community spread after a spike in infections after Spring break and growing concerns over non-essential travel.

The B.C. government has ordered Whistler Blackcomb ski resort closed until April 19 to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus as the number of infections rises. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

"Today's order from the province of British Columbia to close Whistler Blackcomb came as a surprise and we respect the decision and are taking immediate steps to comply," said resort CEO Geoff Buchheister in a statement.

Mayor of Whistler Jack Crompton said the community must follow the advice of health authorities.

"While this is extremely devastating and saddening, our community must continue to focus on slowing the spread of COVID and getting to the other side of this pandemic." Crompton said.

Crompton explained the resort community will need ongoing financial help from the provincial and federal governments as the restrictions will keep tourists away.

Indoor religious services backtracked 

Meanwhile some religious leaders are confused by messaging from provincial health authorities, and others angry, after a variance introduced last Thursday to allow for limited indoor gatherings of 50 people or less during the next six weeks has now been suspended.

Father Pablo Santa Maria at Holy Rosary Cathedral in downtown Vancouver said the church had spent several hours organizing for upcoming religious events including Good Friday. 

"For us, disappointment and anger, because, I mean, we've already started preparing," the priest said.

"We were adding services and adding getting volunteers and staff ready so that we could be open during those days and and do it safely," he said. 

Trustee Haroon Khan of the Al Jamia Masjid mosque in Vancouver said he is supportive that the suspension of indoor activities is being put in place equally for both religious services and businesses. 

"It's disappointing, but at the same time, we don't want to put anyone at risk. This is a circuit breaker, so to speak, that they're trying to implement across the board, which would affect restaurants and other places of assembly and gathering as well as places of worship."