Authors: Graham Christie, Negina Khalil
In British Columbia some provincial restrictions are made by the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) under the Public Health Act and others under the Emergency Program Act (EPA). Police and compliance and enforcement officials can enforce most orders.
UPDATE: The PHO recently loosened province-wide restrictions, which came into effect May 25. The restrictions now provide the following:
Social gatherings of up to five visitors or one other household at a personal residence are permitted. Up to five people from different households can attend a dinner party at a household of four people. One household of seven people can attend a birthday at another household of four people.
Up to 10 people can gather outdoors. For example, up to 10 people can gather at a park or beach. However, people should not be gathering with several groups of new people. They must stick to the same people and continue to use COVID-19 layers of protection and maintain physical distancing. Patios and outdoor areas at restaurants, pubs and bars are not included as places to gather with 10 people at one table.
Cultural events and gatherings
Indoor seated organized events of up to 10 people are permitted granted there is a COVID-19 safety plan in place. For example, an indoor wedding ceremony. Outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed as long as there is a COVID-19 safety plan in place. These include small outdoor concerts, outdoor wedding ceremonies and outdoor live theatre performances.
Drive-in events may proceed with a limited number of people. Drive-in events can have a maximum of 50 cars in attendance. People must stay in their cars and should attend with their household or core bubble. Drive-in events must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place. Examples of drive-in events include, drive-in movies and religious services.
Drop-off events may proceed with a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place. For example, fundraisers and toy drives.
All drive-in and drop-off events must maintain physical distancing, control the entry and exit points, and avoid congestion of cars and congregating of people.
The order restricts most formal in-person meetings outside the workplace, with some exceptions including:
- The B.C. legislature and cabinet meetings
- City council meetings. It is recommended for council to hold virtual meetings as much as possible. The public is not allowed to attend
- Support groups like Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous
- Critical service meetings
Indoor funerals, weddings and baptisms
Indoor funerals, weddings and baptisms may proceed with a limited number of people and a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place. A maximum of 10 people can attend, including the officiant. Review BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) information on event planning. The event organizer and staff present at the event are not included in the 10 people limit. If the event organizer also acts as the officiant, that person is included in the 10 people limit. Receptions associated with funerals, weddings or baptisms are not allowed inside homes or venues.
Indoor religious gatherings and worship services
Safety protocols for indoor in-person religious gatherings and worship services of any size are being reviewed and will be updated shortly. Until new protocols are released. Until then, indoor in-person religious gatherings and worship services of any size are prohibited. You must not attend a service at a church, synagogue, mosque, gudwara, temple or other place of worship. Religious services can continue using remote or virtual attendance options, like Zoom or Skype. You can still visit your place of worship for individual activities such as guidance from spiritual leaders, contemplation or personal prayer. Religious leaders may attend the home of a member of their religious community to provide religious services to the occupant and you can also attend an outdoor religious gathering. You are permitted to attend an outdoor religious gathering.
Meals for people in need
Meals for people in need may proceed with a limited number of people and a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place. You can have a maximum of 50 people in attendance in addition to the organizer and people assisting. This includes, soup kitchens, meals at shelters, charities offering meals. Pre-packaged meals are the best option to limit gatherings inside a dining area. Review BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) information on food banks and food distribution.
Funerals conducted by a religious body may be held outdoors (including in open-sided tents and under overhead coverings). Before, during and after the funeral service, people must not gather or socially engage. Up to 50 people may attend, plus two extra people to make sure rules are followed.
Outdoor religious gatherings and worship services
Religious worship services may be held outdoors (including in open-sided tents and under overhead coverings). Before, during and after the service, people must not gather or socially engage. Up to 50 people may attend, plus two extra people to make sure rules are followed. Participants must be two metres apart unless they live in the same private residence. Drive-in worship events can continue to operate (No more than 50 vehicles may be present, and people who attend in a vehicle must remain in the vehicle). Musical groups of up to five musicians may perform. The only people who can sing are soloists and worship leaders. The only people who can chant are worship leaders. Read the Variance: Outdoor Worship Services – March 23, 2021 (PDF, 250KB).
Masks are required at all times by everyone in attendance. Masks can only be removed by soloists (when singing), worship leaders (when speaking, singing or chanting), readers (when reading out loud), or musicians who need to do so to play their instrument. They must maintain three metres of spacing or use a physical barrier. Masks are not required for people who can’t wear a mask due to a condition or impairment or kids under the age of 12
Organizers must collect information for contract tracing, supply hand sanitizer, and caution those at risk, including seniors and those with underlying medical conditions or compromised immune systems, from attending.
Perimeter seating vehicles and buses (limo and party bus)
The limited operation of perimeter seating vehicles and buses is permitted, subject to restrictions respecting hours of operation and distancing of passengers.
Rental and home sale viewings
Rental and home viewings should be restricted to a maximum of six people, subject to each person present being able to keep two metres away from every other person present at all times.
Retail business, vending markets, and episodic markets
Retail businesses are required to establish capacity limits based on five square metres of unencumbered space per person, post occupancy limits, and where practical, post directional signs to keep people moving in the same direction and not congregating.
A workplace that has workers testing positive for COVID-19 and public health confirming transmission has occurred in the work environment may be ordered to close for a minimum of 10 days. Review the PHO Delegation: Workplace Closures (PDF, 319KB).
For larger workplaces, the closure may be restricted to the locations where transmission has occurred. Exceptions will be made for workplaces like:
- Courthouses, police stations and fire halls
- Healthcare facilities, schools, shelters
- Ferry system and public transportation
- Distribution hubs of necessary goods such as food and medicine
Employers are required to continue operating under their COVID-19 Safety Plans and can begin a gradual return to the workplaceWorkplaces must ensure that all workers and customers maintain an appropriate physical distance and extra care should be taken in small office spaces, break rooms and kitchens. Review the WorkSafeBC COVID-19 Safety Plan documentation.
Every business’s existing COVID-19 Safety Plan should already include a daily health check. Review WorkSafeBC information on daily health checks.
Youth extracurricular activities
Structured extracurricular activities and programs for children or youth 21 years of age and younger can continue to operate with a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place. Youth must be supervised by an adult. These include, education programs, music, art, dance, drama, outdoor exercise, recreational programs. Structured extracurricular activities and programs for children or youth are subject to a 50 person limit. Performances, recitals and demonstrations are not allowed.
Indoor high intensity group exercise
Indoor high intensity group exercise is prohibited. High intensity group exercise causes a sustained and accelerated rate of breathing and may involve close contact with other people. Businesses, recreation centres or other organizations that organize or operate high intensity group exercise must suspend the following activities: hot yoga, spin classes, aerobics, bootcamp, high intensity aspects of circuit training, high intensity interval training (HIIT).
Indoor low intensity group exercise
Indoor low intensity group exercise is allowed. Low intensity group exercise does not cause a sustained and accelerated rate of breathing and does not involve close contact with other people. These include: yoga (Hatha), low intensity exercise machines and cardio equipment, pilates, light weightlifting, stretching, tai-chi, low intensity, barre classes.
Gyms and recreation facilities
Gyms and recreation facilities that offer individual workouts and personal training sessions can remain open as long as they follow a strict COVID-19 Safety Plan. Review Requirements: Indoor Individual Exercise – March 31, 2021 (PDF, 352KB).
The order places restrictions on adult and youth indoor and outdoor group sports.
Adult and Youth Outdoor and Team Sports
Adult and youth outdoor group sports are allowed including games, tournaments, and practices.
Adult Indoor Group and Team Sports
Games, tournaments and competitions for indoor group sports for people 22 years of age and older are prohibited. Some indoor sports and activities, including drills and training activities, are permitted with modifications and a reduced number of participants: 2 people may engage in indoor sports with one another Participants must maintain a distance of three metres from one another unless everyone lives in the same private residence.
Youth Indoor Group and Team Sports
Games, tournaments and competitions for indoor group sports for people 21 years of age and younger are prohibited. Indoor drills and training activities are permitted. Participants must maintain a distance of three metres from one another unless everyone lives in the same private residence.
High Performance athletes
High performance athletes already training in B.C. as of November 19, 2020 can train, travel and compete together. They must follow the COVID-19 safety protocols of the provincial or national sports organization they are affiliated with. To qualify as a high-performance athlete, you must be identified by the Canadian Sports Institute Pacific as a high-performance athlete affiliated with an accredited provincial or national sports organization.
Spectators are not allowed at any sport activities. The only people allowed to attend sport activities are those that provide care to a participant or player. For example, providing personal care or first aid to a player.
Travel for Sport
Travel for athletic activities like games, competitions, training and practice is prohibited. This includes:
- A hockey player travelling from Vernon to Penticton to participate on their spring hockey team
- A softball player traveling from Kamloops to Vancouver to participate on their rep team
- A dancer travelling from Langley to Whistler to participate in a virtual competition
Participants can travel to their home club if their home club is outside of their immediate community. That club needs to be close to a participant’s residence, like a neighbouring community. For example:
- A skier part of the local ski club travelling to their local mountain, which may be in a neighbouring community
- An archer travelling to a neighbouring community because their community does not have an archery club
- A high-performance athlete travelling to a nearby community to receive specialized training
Restaurants, pubs, bars and food courts are allowed with capacity limits based of physical distancing requirements and other rules. This includes a maximum of six people at a table which is not restricted to your household or bubble. Additionally, you must wear a mask when not at a table and events are no longer allowed.
Restaurants, pubs and bars must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan and employee protocols in place. WorkSafeBC will be conducting inspections to verify that COVID-19 Safety Plans remain effective. Establishments that are non-compliant with plan requirements may face orders and fines, and possible referral to public health which may result in a closure order. Review the PHO Order – Food and Liquor Serving Premises (PDF).
As outlined in the EPA mask mandate order, masks are required for everyone in many public indoor settings. A face shield is not a substitute for a mask as it has an opening below the mouth. There are exemptions for:
- People with health conditions or with physical, cognitive or mental impairments who cannot wear one
- People who cannot remove a mask on their own
- Children under the age of 12
- People who need to remove their masks to communicate due to another person’s hearing impairment
Masks are required in the following indoor public settings and all retail stores:
You could be subject to a $230 fine if you do not wear a mask in an indoor public setting, unless you are exempt; refuse to comply with the direction of an enforcement officer, including the direction to leave the space; or engage in abusive or belligerent behaviour.
Masks at workplaces and shared living areas
It is strongly recommended that masks be worn in the following areas:
|Common areas in apartment buildings and condos, including:
||Shared indoor workplace spaces, including:
MLT Aikins will continue to monitor the situation. Employers considering the impact of the province’s pandemic response plan and how it applies to their business should contact a member of our labour and employment team in Vancouver.
Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.