VICTORIA — British Columbia’s top doctor ordered nightclubs and banquet halls to close on Tuesday to control the spread of COVID-19 and placed new restrictions on the sale of alcohol at pubs, lounges and restaurants.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she amended the orders after recent spikes in cases linked to establishments where alcohol is sold.
The revised health orders also include a 10 p.m. cut-off for alcohol sales at bars and restaurants, and they must close at 11 p.m. unless they provide full food service.
Henry said the province needs to make adjustments now that the summer is coming to a close.
“We had a bit of a grace period in the summer, we were able to manage the cases,” she told a news conference.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said the measures taken by the province reflect “an assessment of the evidence, as they have from the beginning.”
The province has adjusted its approach to COVID-19 since the pandemic began to protect the public, he said.
“And these measures are … part of the same effort,” he added.
Henry said as the summer ends, people need to change the way they are socializing.
“We’re moving from the summer where we all needed a break, but we are now at the point where we’re seeing cases continue to increase,” she said.
“As we get back to work for many people and back to school for many people, it is the time for all of us to cut back on our social interactions.”
Henry said there have been 429 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. since Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 6,591 cases.
The province also recorded two additional deaths, both of them in long-term care homes. The two deaths bring B.C.’s COVID-19 death total to 213 people.
She said the new restrictions also place noise limits on pubs, lounges and restaurants to limit close contacts between people. Henry said the lower volumes will make it easier for people to communicate without raising their voices.
“And that means music or other background sounds, such as from televisions in bars, lounges and pubs and restaurants, must be no louder than the volume of normal conversation,” she said.
Henry said the province must focus on getting students back to school and people back to work.
“We now need to put our focus and attention on the important things,” Henry said. “This is what we all need to do now to reduce our risk of contracting COVID-19 for ourselves and for everyone else.”
Henry said the stricter health restrictions are necessary because COVID-19 cases were linked to clubs and halls, especially in Metro Vancouver.
“Yes, I do think these are necessary actions right now,” she added. “We do it for things we think will make a difference. It became apparent that some venues were really high-risk environments.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 8, 2020.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press