B.C. restaurants tighten guidelines amid new spike in COVID-19 cases

The restaurant industry has changed under COVID-19 restrictions and health officials are concerned numbers may rise again if people are not careful enough. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The pressure is back on in B.C. to put a lid on the recent spike of COVID-19 cases.

The restaurant industry is now taking steps to make sure restaurants and similar venues adhere to guidelines and for patrons to respect those measures.

Recent infection cases and exposures have been linked to restaurants, bars, big parties and festival-like gatherings.

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The President of BC Restaurant and Food Service Association said British Columbians are becoming complacent.

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“It’s a good thing to put the pressure and raise the awareness and this is a warning. We were seeing numbers that were low and saying the risk wasn’t there, but the risk is there and it’s high,” said Ian Tostenson.

The focus around exposures at restaurants has prompted the need for tighter guidelines, which is expected to come down later this week.

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“This is much more a directive. It’s going to say, ‘you go to a restaurant, no more than six people. You go to your table, enjoy yourself, maybe use the washrooms, go back to your table and you leave.’ There is no going to the bar, having a few cocktails and mingling with other tables.”

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He’s heard some have complained people are getting too close in restaurants and he’s urging people who don’t feel comfortable to raise concerns with the business or WorkSafe BC.

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“We also need to have a public that enjoys what the restaurant is doing and not push the system, the system can’t be pushed because public safety is too important.”

Tostenson admitting the risk of going backward and the possibility of shutting down dine-in service a second time is a wake-up call.

And as health officials warn us of the potential for “explosive growth” in COVID-19 cases, a University of British Columbia professor and infectious disease specialist also agreed many have become complacent.

Dr. Srinivas Murthy said fewer people are paying attention to the rules and scaling back on re-opening plans is one tool that could be used soon if B.C.’s infection rates continue to rise especially among large gatherings.

“I wouldn’t say at this exact moment that it’s time to roll back all of our reopening strategies. That being said, if people continue to have large scale community transmission, then that’s going to be the next step,” said Murthy.

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B.C.’s top doctor said she’s concerned about the number of new cases that appear to be linked from parties and larger public gatherings.

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On Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry said the government wants to avoid walking back on the province’s reopening plan.

“What we are trying to do and what we have done from the beginning here in B.C. is to take the measured approach so we don’t have to go back. We don’t want to have to go back to closing things down unless it is absolutely necessary.”

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