British Columbia’s New Province-Wide Orders

British Columbia's Province-Wide Orders | Dr. Ali Ghahary

On Thursday, November 19th, British Columbia’s health officials – Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer, alongside Adrian Dix, Minister of Health – announced new (and extended) orders in effort to curb the COVID-19 pandemic in our province. It was a lot of information to take it at once, nonetheless, so below we break down what some of these orders mean for British Columbians.

PROVINCE-WIDE RESTRICTIONS

Prior to Thursday’s announcements, many of the restrictions were limited to the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions where they were asked to significantly reduce their social interactions as well as travel. However, these restrictions are now Province-wide.

TRAVEL

All non-essential travel is to be avoided. This includes travel to and from regions within B.C., as well as travel in and out of the province. This means that you should not travel to go on vacation anywhere, nor should you travel to visit any friends or family outside of your immediate household. For example, as Dr. Bonnie Henry stated during her briefing, “If you live in Victoria, don’t go to Tofino. If you live in Vancouver, don’t go to Whistler.”

As for what counts as travel that is considered essential, this would include regular travel for work (as long as it is within the region), as well as if you need to travel to and from medical appointments or if you have to go to the hospital. This type of essential travel is allowed.

SOCIAL RESTRICTIONS

It is ordered that British Columbians cannot have social gatherings of any size with anyone other than those already in their immediate household. This means that you should not invite any friends or extended family to your household – including hosting outdoor gatherings, meeting friends for coffee, as well as not having playdates for children. If you live alone, your core bubble can consist of no more than two people. They must be the same two people every time and should be people that you already regularly interacted with in-person prior to the pandemic.

You can find more information on restrictions by sector here.

WORKPLACES

Employers must ensure their workplaces review and keep up-to-date their COVID-19 Safety Plan. You can find a COVID-19 Safety Plan template here. All employers must post their Safety Plan in the office, as well as post a copy of it on their website (if a website is available.) Employers must also ensure that all of their employees are conducting daily health checks before going to the office. If an employee has any symptoms of COVID-19, whether it’s cough, sore throat, or runny nose, they must stay home no matter how mild those symptoms. Physical distancing must be maintained in offices at all times, in all spaces.

It is also ordered that employers must make working from home a possibility for their employees. Where there are employees already working from home, employers must immediately suspend their efforts to have remote employees return to the office and allow their remote work to continue until at least the new year. “This will be reviewed early in January,” tweeted Health Minister Adrian Dix.

WorkSafe BC will also be increasing their inspections of workplaces. Any workplace found to be non-compliant of any of the orders set forth will be subjected to fines or ordered to close.

FACE MASKS

Masks are now mandatory for everyone in all public indoor settings and workplaces (except for those who cannot put on or remove a mask/are exempt.) Examples of indoor public settings where masks are mandatory include: Malls/shopping centres, grocery stores, coffee shops, libraries, drug stores, clothing stores, liquor stores, community centres, recreation centres, restaurants and bars, and anywhere that is deemed a public place.

When it comes to wearing masks in workplaces, all employers must enforce the mandatory mask policy with both their employees as well as their customers. Any customer that refuses to wear a mask can be refused entry or denied service. If you are sitting at your desk and are not next to anyone else, you do not have to wear a mask. However, when away from your desk and around others (for example, in hallways, stairways, breakrooms, elevators, or dealing with customers at a front counter), you are expected to wear a mask.

Click here for a complete list of the Province-wide restrictions and orders issued by the PHO.