'We are happy': Larger gatherings back as rules loosened on P.E.I.

Plans for Christmas church services and hockey games are back on again after some restrictions were removed from P.E.I.’s pandemic circuit-breaker lockdown.

Music cut back at St. Dunstan’s, no spectators to be allowed in Charlottetown rinks

Everyone who signed up for a Christmas service at St. Dunstan's will be able to attend, says Father Keith Kennific. (Shane Ross/CBC)

Plans for Christmas church services and hockey games are back on again now that some restrictions have been removed from P.E.I.'s pandemic circuit-breaker lockdown.

The new restrictions were put in place on Dec. 7, after a number of COVID-19 cases were found connected to a cluster of young people in the Charlottetown area. Staff in Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison's office were unable to find the source of the infection, and she wanted to halt its spread.

With no new infections found connected to that case in the 10 days since then, officials decided some restrictions could be lifted early.

Father Keith Kennific, a priest at St. Dunstan's Basilica Parish in Charlottetown, is looking forward to being able to go ahead with Christmas services, mostly as planned before the early December outbreak. Circuit breaker restrictions had limited gatherings to 10 people. Starting Friday, two cohorts of up to 50 can gather for events such as religious services.

"It means starting this weekend, we will basically be able to go back to the numbers that we had prior to the recent circuit breaker," said Kennific.

"Of course it means, for Christmas, a great deal, because Christmas for Christians is a very central celebration in the life of the community. And we will be able to have our planned numbers of services and people. So we are happy."

Everyone who had previously signed up to attend a service at the basilica over Christmas will now be able to, said Kennific.

Before the circuit breaker took effect, the parish had applied for permission to have a smaller third cohort for its music ministry. That won't be allowed under the new rules, but Kennific said there will still be music at the Christmas Eve services.

Hockey's on

Rinks are reopen under the eased restrictions, and organized recreation and team sports are allowed to resume.

As arena superintendent for the City of Charlottetown, Mike White manages the Cody Banks Arena and Simmons Sports Centre, and he's happy to be able to reopen the doors as of Friday.

"The only major impact it's going to have on my two arenas is the fact that we're not going to be allowed to have spectators anymore," said White.

No spectators will be allowed for ice time at Charlottetown arenas for the time being. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"We're going to be reduced down to two zones or two cohorts of 50. So one cohort of 50 will be the cohort on the ice and the other cohort of people, that will be the ones waiting to go on the ice for the next ice time. So that means, unfortunately, we won't be able to have spectators."

White says he's hoping that by mid-January, restrictions will ease further to allow spectators to return.

Every week that the arena is closed represents a loss of about $10,000 in revenue, he said.

There was a silver lining to the temporary closure.

It gave staff a chance to do some deep cleaning, said White, as well as to do some maintenance that the rinks are usually too busy for this time of the year.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Travis Kingdon


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