Metro Vancouver residents continue to gather outdoors despite dire COVID-19 warnings
VANCOUVER -- Public officials have asked again and again that British Columbians stay home to limit the spread of COVID-19, and when they do go out for essential trips like grocery shopping, to stay two metres away from others.
But on Saturday evening, hours after health minister Adrian Dix said the measures need to be followed with "100 per cent compliance," groups of people could be seen picknicking in large groups and sitting close together at English Bay in Vancouver's West End.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonny Henry has said it's fine to go outside for a walk ot a bike ride, as long as you continue to physically distance yourself from others. But a game of basketball or any other sport that puts you in contact with others is not a good idea. Going to a crowded beach is also out, Henry has warned.
On Saturday afternoon, the District of North Vancouver announced it would be closing Quarry Rock and Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. The closure will be enforced starting today at 7 a.m.
"Visitors are not following provincial health officer orders to keep two metres' distance, despite signs and staff enforcing physical distancing at trail entrances," district staff wrote on Twitter.
The City of Port Coquitlam announced Sunday that it would close all sport courts, playing fields and skate parks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The City of Vancouver taped off all playgrounds starting Friday and has added signs to parks and beaches, asking residents to stay two metres apart.
On Sunday, the park board announced that all recreation facilities, like volleyball, tennis and basketball courts, skate parks and playing fields, are now closed. Staff also started to close parking lots for parks and beaches, and removed logs from some beaches to discourage people from gathering.
"The park board is taking this measure as a result of insufficient compliance with social distancing protocol at many parks and beaches," staff said in a statement.
Henry has used her power as provincial health officer to order restaurants and personal services businesses (including spas, salons and tattoo parlors) to close. (Restaurants can still operate as takeout and delivery only.)
A groups of doctors who sent a letter to Henry this week urged the province to take even more stringent measures to close non-essential businesses and close public areas like beaches and parks.
"We need to act now to prevent a catastrophic number of preventable deaths," the letter states. "At our current rate of spread, our hospitals will be overwhelmed within a few weeks without drastic action."
The letter goes on to call for the following measures:
"Similar to Prince Edward Island and several states like California, Illinois and New York, non-essential businesses in B.C. should be closed. Public parks and beaches must enforce social distancing or shut down given the number of people gathering closely in those areas. We must limit visitors in hospitals to prevent the spread in hospitals. Campaigns to increase public awareness of the importance of social distancing can help reduce transmission of disease and flatten the curve."
The doctors say the public has to take this more seriously and nobody should be socializing in person with anyone they do not live with -- and that includes meeting in public places.
British Columbia is one of several provinces that has declared a state of emergency, which gives the government sweeping powers to seize land or personal property, remove or restrict people from anywhere in the province and control the price of food, fuel and clothing.
But the federal governmnet has so far declined to declare a national state of emergency.