Expiration dates removed for B.C.'s COVID-19 orders around gatherings, events, bars and gyms
The B.C. government has removed the expiration dates on COVID-19 orders limiting gathering sizes, banning indoor events and forcing gyms, bars and nightclubs to close – but it's unclear whether some of those restrictions could still be relaxed soon.
The province quietly updated the orders Monday to remove references to restrictions expiring on Jan. 18. Instead, each order now reads that it "does not have an expiration date."
Health Minister Adrian Dix addressed the change on Twitter Monday afternoon, writing that because the previous orders were scheduled to expire at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, they had to be extended to ensure they would remain in place "until Dr. Henry spoke about them."
However, as of Monday morning, the government’s own website listed the orders as expiring at 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 18, from a post dated Dec. 21, 2021.
Dix and Henry are scheduled to appear at a live news conference at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. CTV News will be streaming the event online.
Health officials previously indicated the measures around gatherings and events would be extended past Jan. 18, but hinted there could be changes coming to some of the other restrictions currently in place.
The closure orders for liquor primary bars that don't offer full meal service and fitness facilities have been a major blow to many businesses in the province. A number of gym owners have spoken out against the closures in recent weeks, and several have openly defied them by welcoming their customers back, despite ongoing concerns about widespread COVID-19 transmission.
While provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Friday that the government believes the peak of transmission during the Omicron wave has passed, based in part on wastewater monitoring, she cautioned that many more people will get sick in the coming weeks.
Hospitalization numbers – which are a lagging indicator, meaning trends follow case numbers after a period of delay – are also expected to continue climbing for some time.
BUSINESSES WAIT FOR ANSWERS
The start of a new year is usually a busy time for Eastside Fitness in Vancouver, but not this year.
Co-founder Darnelle Moore said normally by this time in January, they are full of people doing personal training and attending classes.
“We’ve missed that. We’ve missed that whole lead-up period,” she said. “It’s still going to take a long time to get that ball rolling again.”
Moore said the initial order last December came as a surprise.
“Normally, when there’s going to be a change or a closure, or something to do with our fitness industry we’re given some warning and heads up,” she said. “We had not heard anything.”
They quickly pivoted to online offerings, and had a good response. However, Moore said it still won’t be enough to sustain them, and added the provincial grant they’re eligible for is only about an eighth of their monthly expenses.
“It’s a one-time grant, and it’s based on the amount of employees or contractors you have,” she said, adding that they qualify for $5,000 because of their 11-person staff. “That doesn’t even closely cover our rent.”
Jeff Guignard with the Alliance of Beverage Licensees said nightclubs and bars, which were also forced to close, have missed out on critical New Years revenue.
“If we don’t get some good news for those businesses, we’re going to be speaking to government about additional financial support,” he said. “It’s probably never been more difficult to have a hospitality business. So if you’ve got a favourite pub in your neighbourhood, you should get out and support them right now, because they really need your help.”
Guignard said the most recent restrictions combined with “people’s hesitance around the transmissibility of the Omicron variant” has meant that business is down about 50 per cent across the industry.
“We have staff waiting to figure out if they’re going to be scheduled for shifts, and we have to figure out whether we’re ordering inventory,” he said. “So everyone’s watching with bated breath tomorrow.”
Moore is hopeful the order closing gyms will be lifted, and is encouraging people to come back when it does.
“We’re not super-spreaders...all along, most of the gyms that I know have not even had one exposure event,” she said. “Everyone who comes into our space is at least double-vaccinated. We have a really high standard for cleanliness, for personal space...that’s what I want people to know, that it’s safe to come back to the gym.”
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