In-person gatherings among faith groups prohibited for 2 weeks; B.C. premier urges caution ahead of holidays
Empty church. (Shutterstock)
VANCOUVER -- As B.C.'s top health officials announced COVID-19 restrictions would be extended for two more weeks, faith-based gatherings were included in the orders.
When Dr. Bonnie Henry first introduced temporary restrictions on gatherings for the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions on Nov. 7, she said at the time church services don't count as "social gatherings."
But when Henry extended those restrictions for another two weeks on Thursday – and expanded them to the rest of the province – she said the orders now apply to places of worship.
Other meetings that might happen in those spaces, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, can still take place. As well, brief events like baptisms, weddings and funerals can proceed, but with no more than 10 people and with no receptions indoors or outdoors.
On Wednesday, the province's premier said he's talked to local faith leaders about the upcoming holiday season.
In a news release, John Horgan's office says the premier encouraged leaders to limit in-person celebrations during religious and cultural events.
"The last few months have challenged our province in ways we never would have expected," Horgan said in a news release.
"Whether it's Gurpurab, Chanukah, Christmas or New Year's Day, celebrating will have to look different this year. But during this difficult time, people in diverse communities all over B.C. have found new ways to stay connected while staying apart."
So far, health officials haven't specifically said what restrictions will be in place over the Christmas holidays, but have warned all British Columbians that they'll look different this year.
"We also know that people want to spend time together over holiday seasons, and that can spill over into outbreaks in community settings afterwards," Dr. Bonnie Henry said on Monday.
The premier says recent Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas celebrations were good examples of how holidays can be celebrated virtually, instead of in large groups.
"The actions that Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains in B.C. took to avoid in-person gatherings for Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas helped save lives and protect the most vulnerable," Horgan said.
"There will be a time when we can all come together again like we did before. Until then, thank you to everyone for doing their part. Together, we're showing that we're stronger when we come together in common purpose."