What do B.C.'s latest COVID-19 restrictions mean for you?
Wide-ranging rules for social interactions, recreation and travel are in place across the province
On Nov. 19, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced extensive new restrictions and recommendations aimed at getting the spread of disease back under control and she has refined and clarified those rules in the months since.
Henry has now extended the restrictions three times, and as of Feb. 5, they will be in place indefinitely.
The measures expand on regional restrictions introduced in early November, and apply them to people living everywhere in B.C. Social interactions have been severely limited and masks are mandatory in all indoor public spaces.
The restrictions are the tightest British Columbians have seen during the second wave of the pandemic, and they apply everywhere. More details are available on the B.C. government website, but here are answers to some of your more pressing questions.
Note: This story has been updated as of Feb. 5.
What are the new rules for wearing masks?
Masks are now mandatory for everyone in indoor retail and public spaces. That includes malls, grocery stores, liquor stores, community centres, municipal buildings, libraries, common areas in hotels and restaurants and bars when not seated at a table.
They're also required in shared areas of workplaces including elevators and break rooms, and in any places where physical distances cannot be maintained, like meeting rooms with more than four people.
However, they are not required in schools.
Those who are exempt from the rules include children under the age of 12, people with health conditions or physical, cognitive or mental impairments who cannot wear a face covering, people who are unable to remove a mask on their own, and people who need to remove their masks to communicate because of a hearing impairment.
Where do the new restrictions on social interactions apply, and how long will they be in place?
The new restrictions apply to everyone living anywhere in the province. They came into effect on Nov. 19 at midnight and remain in effect until Feb. 5 at midnight.
What are the rules for social gatherings?
All social gatherings with anyone outside of your household or "core bubble" are banned — that includes play dates, dinner parties, backyard barbecues and get-togethers at a restaurant or bar.
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What is a household?
It may seem obvious, but the Provincial Health Authority has offered up a definition for those who still have questions.
A household is defined as a group of people who live in the same dwelling. If you have a rental suite in your home, the suite is a separate household. If you live in an apartment or house with roommates, you are all members of the same household.
What about a 'core bubble'?
Some people may also have someone they don't live with but still need to see regularly. That might include a partner or a co-parent.
A core bubble should only include a maximum of two people outside your household.
What about people who live alone?
Those who live by themselves can form a core bubble with one or two others to maintain some social connection.
What about community gatherings and events?
These have also been suspended, whether indoors or outdoors. That means no galas, theatre performances, musical concerts, film screenings in a theatre or events to mark the season.
However, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says that medical gatherings, including group support meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous, are still permitted if they involve fewer than 50 people and have COVID-19 safety plans.
Soup kitchens and other programs to feed people in need are still permitted, as long as there are fewer than 50 people in attendance.
What about religious gatherings?
All in-person faith-related gatherings have been suspended as well, and worshippers have been told not to attend services at their gurdwara, synagogue, church, mosque or temple.
Weddings, funerals and baptisms are permitted with a maximum of 10 people and if they don't include a reception.
Are restaurants and bars still open?
Henry says there has been very little transmission of COVID-19 within restaurants, and British Columbians are still permitted to dine inside or on the patio as long as they stick to their households or core bubbles. A maximum of six people are permitted at any table and masks are required when not seated.
WorkSafeBC will be conducting inspections to make sure safety plans are effective and being followed.
What about other workplaces?
Health officials are asking employers to pause any return-to-work plans for employees who've been working at home. They're also asking employers to review their safety plans to make sure they're being followed, and ensure that everyone is being screened daily for COVID-19 symptoms.
What are the new rules around fitness facilities?
Restrictions on fitness activities have evolved since November, but as of Dec. 15, new guidelines are in place that allow lower impact indoor group fitness activities to restart with approved safety plans. That includes yoga, Pilates, tai chi, stretching, dance classes and light weightlifting.
Some indoor group fitness activities have been identified as high risk and they've been ordered to stop indefinitely. That includes hot yoga, spin, aerobics, boot camp, circuit training and high-intensity interval training.
Gyms that offer individual fitness programs or personal training can remain open.
What about sports?
As of Dec. 3, all indoor and outdoor adult team sports have been prohibited, including basketball, cheerleading, combat sports, martial arts, floor hockey, floor ringette, ice hockey, ringette, netball, skating, soccer, squash, volleyball, team skating, indoor bowling, lawn bowling, curling, lacrosse, Ultimate Frisbee, rugby, football, baseball and softball.
However, high-performance athletes are now excluded from the ban on adult sports.
Sports programs for people aged 21 and under have been returned to Phase 2 guidelines for play, which include keeping a distance of two metres from other people, practising in small groups, no spectators and no travel. Games, tournaments and competitions are suspended.
Henry has said it's OK to go skiing as long as you stick to the local hills. That means no driving from Vancouver to Whistler to hit the slopes, but the North Shore mountains are fine.
What are the new rules around travel?
Henry is advising against any non-essential travel, including vacations and visiting friends or family outside of your household or core bubble. People who commute or need to travel for work can continue doing so.
Can people visit B.C. from other provinces?
Henry is asking anyone who lives outside the province to postpone or cancel non-essential trips to B.C. People from outside of Canada are required by law to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
What about drive-in and drive-through events?
While Henry extended most restrictions during her daily briefing on Dec. 7, she also announced that drive-in and drive-through events are now exempt, as long as the occupants of a vehicle are members of the same household and remain inside throughout the event.
That means things like drive-by toy drives and Christmas light display tours are now OK, as are drive-in movies.
So, what can I still do?
It's still OK to go for a physically distanced walk outside with one friend, or carpool children to and from school. It's fine for grandparents to pick up the kids after school and provide child care.
Public pools and skating rinks can continue to operate, as long as they're not associated with an event.
If you employ a cleaning service for your home, that's still permitted, as is having repair people visit.
Hair salons, nail salons and spas are still open.
With files from Michelle Ghoussoub