Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has announced wide-ranging new rules for controlling the spread of COVID-19, including mandatory masks in indoor public and retail spaces, restricting social gatherings to household members only and asking everyone not to travel outside their communities for non-essential reasons.

Of significance to Fernie and the Elk Valley, Henry is asking people from other provinces to postpone their trips to B.C.

“We’re seeing increased community transmissions and effects on our hospitals in all areas of the province,” Henry said Thursday as she announced a long list of new measures meant to stem the second wave of COVID-19.

“We need to relieve the stress on our health-care systems, or else people with all types of urgent care needs will suffer.”

Henry said that she is extending an earlier order limiting social gatherings in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions until Dec. 7 and making it apply provincewide.

That means no one should be meeting for social reasons with anyone outside of their immediate household, although a distanced walk with a friend or arranging for grandparents to pick up the kids from school is still acceptable.

She’s also asked Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth to implement a requirement for workers and members of the public to wear masks in all retail environments, restaurants and indoor public spaces, including common areas of workplaces, except when eating or drinking. The order for mandatory masks is effective today.

High-risk indoor group fitness activities, including high intensity interval training, hot yoga and spin classes will be suspended as well.

Other measures announced today include:
– All community and social events suspended for the next two weeks, even if they’re under 50 people.
– In-person faith services suspended.
– No spectators allowed at any indoor or outdoor sport, and no travelling outside the local community for sports.
– Businesses are being asked to suspend any returns to the office for employees who’ve been working at home.
– They’re also being told to re-evaluate whether safety plans are appropriate and being followed.
– Inspections of businesses and enforcement of public health orders are being stepped up.
– Officials are asking everyone not to travel outside their communities for non-essential reasons and asking people from other provinces to postpone their trips here.

By order and direction of the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), all individuals, places of work and businesses in B.C. must significantly reduce their level of social interactions and travel. See the details here www2.gov.bc.ca

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