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‘Don’t promote them’: B.C. health minister slams viral video supporting groups amid COVID-19

Conspiracy theorist slammed for COVID-19 video
A B.C. conspiracy theorist is being blasted for using the suffering of others to promote himself. As Richard Zussman reports, even a Vancouver celebrity is speaking out.

A dozen or so protesters in Vancouver calling for an end to physical-distancing restrictions are “attempting to promote themselves” and represent “marginal views,” B.C.’s health minister says.

Adrian Dix was responding to a viral video showing a group of about 12 to 15 people gathering closely together on a Vancouver street over the weekend in an attempt to protest public health orders to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The video was posted on Sunday and had been viewed more than 2.9 million times by Tuesday morning.

A vast majority of British Columbians are following the rules, Dix said, calling the video an example of a few people seeking attention.

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

“I think we’ve seen, in the past number of weeks, one or two examples of people behaving very badly,” Dix said during his daily news briefing on the pandemic response with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

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“That may be inevitable in these times that people are attempting to essentially promote themselves — what I think is genuinely, if you look in any depth at their other views … marginal views.”

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A woman in the video also objected to the province’s calls to stay at home indoors, referencing the sunny weather. In fact, health officials have said it’s fine to go outside as long as a distance of two metres is maintained between people at all times.

The video has been widely criticized on social media.

Actor Seth Rogen, born and raised in Vancouver, called the man who posted the video “a f$%^& idiot” and told him to “stay inside.”

There have been other examples of British Columbians being openly hostile to the rules.

READ MORE: Yoga studio in Delta shut down after claiming hot yoga fights coronavirus

The operator of a Delta yoga studio that was shut down after falsely claiming hot yoga can kill the novel coronavirus is facing an investigation after posting a series of videos in which he enters health-care facilities to get the “truth” about the pandemic.

One video shows Mak Parhar attempting to go through a COVID-19 drive-through testing site.

In another, he enters and explores Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, using elevators and peeking into the intensive care unit and an area where COVID-19 patients have been isolated.

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David Black, a political communications expert at Royal Roads University in Victoria, said in abnormal times such as war, people suspend routine democratic politics to a degree.

The public should be cautious when government grants itself unusual powers in a crisis, Black said, but such a move has precedent in Canada and around the world, as long as it’s understood to be temporary and subject to oversight.

“When skepticism of government might well lead people to making stupid decisions about social distancing, that’s where videos like this, apart from their counter-intuitive appeal, pose a public-health risk,” he said.