PHO issues new order to limit size of gatherings and events

On October 30, 2020, British Columbia’s Provincial Health Office issued a new order with respect to limits on the size of gatherings and events, and other precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at such events. The purpose of the order is to address the increase in COVID-19 transmissions linked to seasonal and other celebrations in private residences, and to social mingling coupled with consumption of alcohol and/or the presence of loud background music, as these latter two factors increase risky behaviour or people moving closer together to be heard.

Applicability of the Order

The new order applies to owners, operators, and/or occupants of:

  • banquet halls;
  • vacation accommodations;
  • private residences;
  • premises subject to the Food and Liquor Serving Premises order (e., bars and restaurants);

The order is also applicable to persons who organize and attend events. Expressly excluded from the order are:

  • health care related events (vaccine clinics, COVID-19 testing facilities, blood donation clinics);
  • court sittings;
  • workers at a worksite engaged in their work activities;
  • workers living at a work camp;
  • students, teachers or instructors engaged in educational activities (K-12 and post-secondary);
  • classes at a recreation centre, pool or fitness centre;
  • customers in a mall engaged in shopping;
  • individuals attending a farmer’s market, or other similar episodic vending market;
  • individuals in campground not attending an event; or
  • use of any place for election purposes.

Banquet Halls

The new order expressly prohibits the holding of an event of any size at a banquet hall. A banquet hall is defined to means a stand-alone premises built for the purpose of holding large social events, including banquets, generally involving many hundreds of people. The order expressly excludes from this definition private clubs, hotels, houses of worship, recreation centres, sports organizations or other similar non- profit organizations.

However, health care related events or the holding of an election at a banquet hall is allowed under the order.

Private Residences and Vacation Accommodations

The new order strictly limits a gathering in a private residence or vacation accommodation to 6 persons, in addition to the occupants of the residence or accommodation. There must also be sufficient space in the residence or accommodation for the occupants and guests to physically distance from each other.   This aspect of the order formalizes the Provincial Health Officer’s oral order on October 26, 2020 that British Columbians should only socialize in their homes with their “safe six”.

Food and Drink Establishments

The new order continues to limit gatherings at establishments subject to the Food and Liquor Serving Premises order to 50 persons, and maintains the protective measures already in place for these types of establishments, including:

  • ensuring sufficient space to allow for physical distancing;
  • ensuring guests are physically distant from each other unless in the same party;
  • preventing guests from congregating outside the establishment;
  • limiting the number of guests per table to 6 persons;
  • ensuring a physical barrier, or physical space of 3 meters, between guests and any performer or speaker at the event;
  • prohibiting Karaoke, dance, and open-mic sessions at the event;
  • ending liquor service by 10:00pm;
  • ending the event and vacating all guests from the premises by 11:00pm; and
  • prohibiting consumption of liquor on premises after 11:00pm, including by owners or event organizers.

The Provincial Health Officer’s new order on gatherings and events can be accessed here.

Note to our Readers: Information regarding COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. We are working to bring you up-to-date articles as the legal issues develop and to keep our previous posts updated. Given that the legal issues related to COVID-19 are constantly changing, if you are looking for legal advice or are dealing with an issue in relation to COVID-19, please contact your Harris lawyer or a member of our COVID-19 response team: Sari Wiens, Ilan BurkesNicole Toye or Jessica Fairbairn.

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