Coronavirus: Vancouver parks, beaches to feature ‘champions’ promoting physical distancing

Click to play video 'Enforcing social distancing during the coronavirus crisis' Enforcing social distancing during the coronavirus crisis
(March 22) Enforcing social distancing during the coronavirus crisis – Mar 22, 2020

The Vancouver Park Board is stepping up its campaign to promote physical distancing during the novel coronavirus pandemic, as people continue to gather in large groups in the city’s parks and beaches.

The “Champions” program will see roughly 25 park board staff dressed in bright neon green vests spread across some of Vancouver’s busiest outdoor spaces, including the Seawall and Stanley Park.

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The program, which launched Saturday, is meant to be a further reminder for people to keep their distance while promoting the use of outdoor spaces in a responsible manner, as people self-isolate to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The city’s parks and beaches have remained open despite the closures of playgrounds, outdoor sports fields and courts, skate parks and parking lots last month.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. closes 14 provincial parks after social-distance rules ignored

But park board general manager Malcolm Bromley said Saturday that could change if people continue to break the rules set by public health officials.

“If we continue to see people gather in groups, we will be forced to take other measures, perhaps even looking at closing further public spaces,” he said at a press conference in English Bay.

“We’re doing everything we can to avoid that because we think it’s very important that people have a balance in their life during this stressful time.”

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The park board says rangers have already issued over 1,400 warnings to people who have been violating physical distancing orders. Bromley said those people have been largely cooperative after being informed of the rules.

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“By and large people will say, ‘Oh yeah, I forgot, thank you very much’ and they comply with that,” he said.

“They’re not being malicious, they’re just following old habits.”

READ MORE: Vancouver approves up to $50k in fines for ignoring emergency coronavirus measures

The “champions” will assist park rangers in spreading education, rather than enforcement, he said.

Vancouver has approved the issuing of fines up to $1,000 for individuals caught breaking public health orders. Businesses that fail to promote physical distancing can be fined up to $50,000.

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