BC’s Recent Attempt to Halt the Spread of COVID-19: What the New Orders Mean for You and Your Business
In an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19 in BC, Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry issued several public health orders restricting social interactions and business operations within the province. These health orders are in place until further notice.
On March 29, 2021, Dr. Henry amended the orders, further restricting activity in BC. The amendments will expire on April 19 at midnight.
The following is a summary of the orders and restrictions currently in place. For more information, please refer to the BC Government’s Webpage here.
Orders and Recommendations
Masks are required in all public indoor settings and retail stores. Masks are also strongly recommended in shared workplaces and living areas, such as in elevators, hallways, and break rooms.
A face shield is not a mask.
Mask removal is permitted for a variety of reasons, including for identification purposes, for the consumption of food and beverages at a location designated for those purposes, and for communication with a person who has a hearing impairment.
The following people are exempt from the requirement to wear masks:
- those who are unable to wear a mask due to a health condition;
- those who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own; and
- children under the age of 12.
Individuals who do not wear a mask, refuse to comply with the direction of an enforcement officer, and respond with abusive or belligerent behavior, will be subject to a $230 fine.
Most businesses and workplaces can remain open as long as they have a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place.
Workplaces must screen their employees on a daily basis. Workplaces must also:
- ensure that all workers and customers wear masks in common areas;
- remind employees to monitor themselves daily and to stay at home if they have symptoms; and
- make every effort to provide work from home options.
Retail businesses are required to establish capacity restrictions based on five square meters of unencumbered space per person, post occupancy limits and directional signs where practical to do so, and make hand sanitization options readily available for patrons.
Individuals must not enter retail businesses if advised by the owner or a staff member that they cannot be accommodated safely, and must leave if requested to do so on this basis.
Restaurants, pubs, bars, and food courts must close for indoor dining until April 19 at midnight. Outdoor patio seating and takeout/delivery is still permitted.
Limited Social Interaction
No one is permitted to gather indoors with anyone outside of their immediate household or “core bubble” for social purposes. If you live alone, your “core bubble” can include a maximum of two relatives, friends, partners, or co-parents who happen to live in a different household.
Permitted activities include:
- gathering outdoors with up to 10 people outside your “core bubble”, though individuals should stick to the same 10 people and avoid gathering with multiple groups;
- grandparents providing childcare;
- carpool arrangements to and from school; and
- welcoming a child home from university.
Indoor religious gatherings are prohibited. However, individuals are permitted to visit places of worship for activities such as individual contemplation or prayer. Religious leaders may also attend the homes of members of their religious communities to provide religious services to the occupant.
Outdoor religious services are permitted at this time, with a maximum of 50 people in attendance, plus an extra two people to ensure rules are being followed. Attendees must complete a self-health check prior to attending, and stay home if they have symptoms.
Attendees who do not live in the same private residence must remain two meters apart, and avoid gathering or socially engaging before, during, and after the service. Organizers must collect information for contact tracing, supply hand sanitizer, and caution those at higher risk from attending.
Musical groups of up to five musicians may perform at outdoor services. However, only soloists and worship leaders can sing, and only worship leaders can chant.
Everyone in attendance must wear a mask, except:
- soloists when singing;
- worship leaders when speaking, singing, or chanting;
- musicians who must remove their mask to play their instrument;
- children under the age of 12; and
- those who cannot wear a mask due to a condition or impairment.
Schools will remain open and are unaffected by the order.
Events and Gatherings
Cultural events have been suspended. These include, but are not limited to, galas, musicals, theatre performances, silent auctions, and movie viewings in cinemas.
Permitted events and gatherings include:
- drive-in and drop-off events, such as religious services and toy drives, with a maximum of 50 cars in attendance and a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place. Attendees must stay in their cars, and hosts must maintain physical distancing, control the entry and exit points, and avoid congestion of cars or people;
- meals for people in need, such as soup kitchens, with a maximum of 50 people in attendance; and
- access to and use of public pools and public skating rinks with a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place, unless associated with an event.
Exercise and Fitness Centers
High-intensity group fitness activities, such as spin classes, hot yoga, and high intensity interval training sessions are prohibited until further notice.
Low-intensity group physical activities, such as yoga, pilates, and adult dance classes are prohibited until April 19 at midnight.
Individual exercise at gyms and recreation facilities can continue, as long as the facility offering these services strictly follows a COVID-19 Safety Plan.
Indoor and outdoor sports for people over the age of 22 are prohibited, with the following exceptions:
- up to two people may engage in indoor sports with one another; and
- up to ten people may engage in outdoor sports with one another.
Indoor and outdoor sports for people under the age of 21 are permitted, but must follow viaSport’s Return to Sport Phase 2 guidance. At this time, viaSport has suspended games, tournaments, and competitions.
Spectators are not permitted to attend sport activities. Individuals who provide care to participants or players, such as first aid providers, are not classified as spectators and can continue attending sporting events.
High performance athletes are unaffected by the order, as long as they continue to follow the safety guidelines of their provincial sports organization.
Youth Extracurricular Activities
Structured extracurricular activities for people 21 years of age and younger, such as music and art classes, can continue with a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place if they are supervised by an adult and are limited to 50 people. Performances, recitals, and demonstrations have been suspended.
Non-essential travel in and out of the province and between health regions should be avoided. Essential travel includes travel for work, medical appointments, and hospital visits. Non-essential travel includes travel for vacations and to visit friends or family outside your household or core bubble.
Travel for sports has been suspended.
Whistler Blackcomb ski resort is closed until April 19 at midnight.
Weddings, baptisms, and indoor funeral ceremonies are permitted to continue with a maximum of ten attendees, including the officiant. Outdoor funeral ceremonies conducted by a religious body are permitted with a maximum of 50 people in attendance, plus two extra people to ensure rules are being followed. Receptions are not permitted at this time, and attendees must avoid gathering or socially engaging before, during, and after the service.
Other permitted activities include:
- personal and home-based services, such as hair and nail salons, cleaning services, house repair, tutoring and music lessons, and home care for disabled individuals;
- formal meetings, such as city-council meetings, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, group support meetings, and business meetings; and
- rental and home sale viewings, with a maximum of six people in attendance and masks worn.
Perimeter seating vehicles and busses are permitted to operate, subject to restrictions respecting hours of operation and physical distancing.
Impact on Businesses
Businesses should continually confirm whether their particular service has been restricted and proceed accordingly. Businesses that are permitted to remain open should frequently revisit their COVID-19 Safety Plans and update them in accordance with the orders. A helpful guideline is available here.
Businesses are required to implement a daily screening procedure for all onsite employees. Other things to consider include:
- a mask policy;
- improved physical distancing guidelines;
- a work-from-home policy, if appropriate; and
- more stringent requirements in small office spaces, break rooms and kitchens.
Businesses should also discourage informal gathering among employees outside of the workplace.
Businesses that have closed due to COVID-19 should check to see if they are eligible to receive rent support here.
Available Fines and Enforcement Measures
Applicable fines pursuant to the legislation are as follows:
Contravention of the Public Health Act by, among other things, failing to
Contravention of the Public Health Act by
Contravention the Public Health Act by:
Contravention of the Emergency Program Act or interference with or obstruction of any person in the exercise of any power or performance of any duty under it.
 Public Health Act, ss. .99(1), 108(1)(a)
 Public Health Act, s. 107.
 Public Health Act, ss. 99(2) and (4), and s. 108(1)(b).
 Public Health Act, s. 107.
 Public Health Act, ss. 99(3), 108(1)(c).
 Public Health Act, s. 107.
 Public Health Act, s. 27.