Coronavirus: Burlington bans drive-by processions, parades of more than 5 vehicles

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The City of Burlington says it is banning drive-by processions and parades — viewed as ways to see loved ones during special occasions — of more than five vehicles due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Upon review of provincial emergency orders, any parade larger than five vehicles at one time would be prohibited,” the city said in a news release.

The city said drive-by visits to family and friends are one unique way people have managed to abide by physical-distancing measures while still celebrating significant milestones such as birthdays, weddings, retirements and health progress by waving and offering some cheer.

“These drive-by celebrations have a small but powerful, positive influence on the participants, the recipients as well as the surrounding neighbourhoods, and we need to find a way to support them in a controlled and legal manner.”

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However, the city said it has noted that some of these processions have grown significantly in size, duration and frequency.

Global News spoke to Mayor Marianne Meed Ward who said she noticed the need to scale back after participating herself in a large community-organized event over the weekend with more than 125 cars and dozens of motorcycles and the challenges from gathering and traffic.

“Some concerns around if people are queuing up in advance for one of these events, are they going to be tempted to get out of their car? Talk to each other? We’re all so cooped up. So I realized, just through experiencing that myself, there were some logistic and other challenges. And the organizers did too,” Ward said.

“We’re not creating any new rules around bylaws or parades. We’re not creating any new fines,” Ward continued. “The fines exist, so if somebody is gathering more than five, there are provincial orders already for that. If people are coming closer than two metres or six feet, we do have a bylaw for that… We’re not looking to create new regulations. We’re asking people to respect the ones that are already there.”

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Halton Region Public Health said it discourages parades but has provided some guidelines to allow for the limited ability of small-scale, local processions.

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It cites the already existing provincial emergency order by the Ontario government, which prohibits public events of more than five people, including parades, as its guideline.

Recommendations from Halton Region Public Health for parade organizers and participants include:

  • Remain in your vehicle during the entire event
  • Do not interact or gather with individuals outside of the vehicles
  • Ensure only household members are in the vehicles
  • Reduce the need for in-person co-ordination by providing written or telephone directions in advance
  • Limit the distance participants are driving
  • Consider limiting the number of vehicles permitted
  • Continue to follow the rules of the road
  • Follow relevant local regulations with respect to events/parades

The City of Burlington is asking organizers of smaller-scale parades that follow the provincial orders and public health advice to:

  • Limit participation to immediate family and close friends and no more than five vehicles at any one time in a procession.
  • Alert your neighbours in advance of the planned procession and timing to the degree possible while maintaining social distancing (for example, providing notice via email or a neighbourhood Facebook Group).
  • Ensure any decorations on a vehicle (ribbons, balloons, stuffed toys) are properly secured.
  • Instead of gathering at a centralized location to form a queue, provide a window of time for participants to make their way individually to the location and drive by.
  • Acknowledging these drive-bys have the potential to draw groups of people outside of their homes, observers should stay on their own property and two metres away from any neighbour.

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“Overall, Halton Region Public Health does not encourage these types of large events right now, as they may increase opportunities for transmission of disease and make it difficult for individuals to appropriately follow physical-distancing measures,” Halton Region Public Health said in a release.

“Virtual celebrations via videoconferencing could be encouraged instead.”

Mayor Ward said first responder-organized parades will not be subject to the restriction as they are more controlled and tend to be smaller.

“We still do a first responder parade by our hospital. We’re planning that the first Friday of every month as long as this emergency takes place, but it is limited to first responders and there’s already protections inherent in that, and it’s a much smaller scale,” Ward explained. “It’s a very short route, you have a police escort that can control traffic. People have PPE’s (personal protective equipment) if they need it.”

The public health unit is also reminding residents to continue to stay home as much as possible, only go out for essential reasons, maintain physical distancing and practise good hand hygiene.

— With files from Shallima Maharaj.

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