Dr. Bonnie Henry, Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix speak on a conference call with hundreds of religious leaders, March 11, 2020. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Weddings, big gatherings have to stop, B.C.’s COVID-19 doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry calls for alternatives to live ‘celebrations and ceremonies’

Weddings, funerals and other “celebrations and ceremonies” need to be held without physical gathering as B.C. braces for what might be the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says.

In her March 25 daily update showing B.C. cases up to 659, Henry repeated a plea to faith and spiritual leaders that was first made by Premier John Horgan on March 11 to avoid close gatherings including “celebrations and ceremonies.”

The next two weeks are particularly important to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, and her order for a maximum of 50 people is a general guide for what can be managed with sufficient physical distance between people, Henry said.

“This is not an order of convenience,” she said. “It is something that is required to protect people, and we know that 50 is not an absolute number. It is the maximum, but we know smaller is better.

“We need to continue to not meet in groups, even groups of 10, even groups of 20. Small groups, even two and three, can sometimes be that transmission point.”

RELATED: B.C. closes camping, day services in provincial parks

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A sunny weekend with beach gatherings and reports of outdoor weddings prompted the call for stricter rules on gatherings. The B.C. government also closed several of its more popular provincial parks where people were collecting in large numbers, and shut down campsites, washrooms and day-use facilities across the province.

There have been reports of packed house parties attended by police, who are also at risk of exposure to COVID-19 as they enforce public health orders in a state of emergency.

Henry urged people to “connect virtually,” as people have been doing with video links and in cities, staging neighbourhood celebrations to play music or applaud the efforts of people working through the pandemic.

“We need to have a safe space between us for the next little while,” Henry said. “And that includes celebrations and ceremonies. I recognize when communities are in a crisis, having celebrations, having ceremonies is our way of helping to cope, helping to understand what’s going on with these critical times.”


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