B.C. health minister issues warning on weekend events: 'The rules will be enforced'

British Columbia’s health minister urged those thinking of attending large events where social distancing isn’t possible to re-think their plans, warning bylaw officers would be out enforcing COVID-19 rules.

Adrian Dix says parties may not be immediately shut down but there would be consequences for those found flaunting the rules. Private parties “have been a significant source of problems,” he said at a news conference Thursday. “I have to say this: If you’re thinking of organizing a party, especially one involving alcohol, where there’s no specific limits on distancing that you’re putting in place, you should not do so.”

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He said environmental health and bylaw officers would be out checking banquet halls and other places that hold events to ensure the 50-person capacity limit is being respected.

“They can expect to be visited,” he said of those hosting private events. “The rules will be enforced and that will have consequences in the future … what this is is warning in advance this weekend of what can happen and our expectation, our expectation, that rules will be followed.”

His comments come as B.C. reported 78 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the province’s total to 4,274. No new deaths were reported Thursday, leaving the total at 196.

No new confirmed cases were reported in the Island Health region, which has had a total of 150. Of those, three are active and 142 people have recovered. Five deaths have been linked to the virus.

The region has had six reported cases in the past two weeks, according to numbers from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control: one in the north Island region, which includes part of the mainland, four in the central Island, and one on the south Island.

The north Island has been hardest hit, data show, with 60 confirmed cases between Jan. 1 and Aug. 13. The central Island has had 39 cases and the south Island has had 51.

People between the ages of 20 to 29 now make up the group seeing the largest increase of infections, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

Those infections have been seen after exposure events, such as parties where young adults have been gathering, she added.

Henry said those in that age range as well as people between the ages of 30 to 39 make up a disproportionate number of the province’s infections.

But she cautioned against criticizing the behaviour of all people in that age group.

“I think we have to be a little bit careful about demonizing. Most young people are doing the right things and they are socially responsible, and they care a tremendous amount about their communities and their families.” she said.

Henry also revealed some of the responses to the COVID-19 Population Healthy Survey, laying out the toll the pandemic has had on people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds.

About 390,000 British Columbians completed the survey, which asked questions about the financial and societal impact the pandemic had taken on them.

Those who identified as West Asian, Latin American and South Asian respondents were the most likely to report difficulties in meeting financial needs. West Asian, Latin American and Black respondents were the most likely to report job losses caused by the pandemic.

Caucasian respondents reported fewer financial difficulties, but increased alcohol consumption. Those with lower incomes also reported issues with food security as well as trouble meeting their financial needs.

— With a file from the Times Colonist

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