B.C. has made a temporary change to its rules, allowing for indoor religious gatherings, while it also loosened restrictions regarding visitation in long-term care and assisted living facilities.
The changes for religious services will be implemented between March 28th and May 13th, while the new rules around long-term care visitations will be in effect starting April 1st.
Long-term care visitation
Starting next month, long-term care and assisted living facility residents will be able to have regular opportunities to see friends and family.
“This pandemic has taken an incredible toll on people in long-term care and on their loved ones,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “We are grateful for the sacrifices people living and working in long-term care and their families have made to keep one another safe. With vaccines bringing an important layer of protection for everyone in our province, it is a safe time to ease visitor restrictions and support safe social connections for people in long-term care.”
The eased restrictions include:
- Removing the requirement for a single designated visitor, allowing for additional family and friends to visit long-term care and assisted living residents.
- Expanding the number of visitors so up to two visitors, plus a child will be allowed to visit at a time, allowing people to connect in small groups.
- Changing the allowable location of visits so family and friends can visit in residents’ rooms without staff present.
- Allowing physical touch between visitors and residents, provided appropriate infection prevention and control measures, like masks and hand hygiene, are in place.
Visitation will still require advance booking, visitor health screening, use of masks, and frequent hand washing. All visits will be suspended in facilities where outbreaks are active, however.
“Changes to long-term care visitation to allow for increased social connection are incredibly welcome news for seniors and Elders in long-term care, and the communities that support them,” said Mable Elmore, Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors Services and Long-Term Care. “Through the unprecedented challenges this pandemic has posed, B.C. has taken strong action to protect people in long-term care and their loved ones, and we will continue to do everything we can to keep people in long-term care healthy and safe, both during this pandemic and beyond.”
Early in the pandemic, the B.C. Government said the elderly have been identified as people who are extremely vulnerable to severe outcomes from COVID-19. In response, the Province barred all visitation to attempt to keep seniors safe and deliver better care.
“This year has been challenging for all of us, but the challenges for those living and working in long-term care and their loved ones have been among the greatest we have faced,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer. “Now that the most vulnerable among us have received a vaccine, we are safely amending restrictions to give people in long-term care greater opportunities to connect with the people they love.”
B.C.’s religious groups will be able to gather for indoor services next month, for a limited time.
Dr. Henry announced on Thursday that religious services may be held indoors ahead of Easter and Passover. The rule allows for a window between March 28th to May 13th for faith services to be held.
“This represents a first step in the gradual reopening of indoor faith and spiritual group gatherings,” said Dr. Henry. “We’re hopeful that this one-time indoor variance can be extended soon after the trial period.”
Henry added that the rules will change or be adapted depending on the pandemic and provincial case numbers.
“If conditions require us to revisit this, we will do so in consultation with faith leaders,” explained Henry.
Last Monday, Dr. Henry announced that small outdoor gatherings will be permitted for religious services.