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‘Just offensive’: Large Vancouver beach party draws outrage amid COVID-19

Click to play video 'Large Vancouver beach party draws criticism' Large Vancouver beach party draws criticism
Large Vancouver beach party draws criticism

A popular drum circle at a Vancouver beach is once again stirring controversy, this time for ignoring coronavirus protocols.

Drummers and revelers have been gathering at Third Beach in Stanley Park on Tuesdays in summer for more than 15 years.

Read more: B.C. tightens bars and nightclubs as new coronavirus cases top 30 again

The event has grown rapidly in size in recent years, prompting a myriad of complaints around noise, drinking and public urination.

Click to play video 'Large crowd gathers at Vancouver beach for popular drum circle' Large crowd gathers at Vancouver beach for popular drum circle
Large crowd gathers at Vancouver beach for popular drum circle

Now, photos and videos of the most recent event are circulating on social media and spurring an outcry over disregard for physical and social distancing measures.

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“This is just offensive,” wrote one Twitter user, after posting images of the event.

Read more: ‘The jerk ratio increases’: Thousands flock to Vancouver drum circle, raising concerns

Images show several hundred people gathered at the beach, many spilling onto the seawall.

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People can be seen packed close together, dancing and cheering amid the drums.

British Columbia is currently under a public health order that bans gatherings of more than 50 people.

“It is one of those scenarios where we don’t want lots of people to crowd together for periods of time and have close conversations. Being outside means its less risky, but it’s not zero risk,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

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“Keep your group small, keep a safe distance from other small groups.”

Read more: ‘It’s not a hoax,’ says B.C. doctor hospitalized 105 days with coronavirus

The City of Vancouver and Vancouver Park Board both said enforcing penalties for breaking physical distancing regulations is in provincial jurisdiction, and that its staff were focused on education.

Under B.C.’s state of emergency, municipal bylaw officers are allowed to issue warnings and advice about the province’s public health orders, but not issue fines.

The park board called the drum circle an “unsanctioned and unpermitted event” organized by community members.

“We are concerned about the potential risk to individuals who participated, particularly considering the increase in positive COVID-19 cases over the past week,” said a spokesperson in an email.

Click to play video '‘Keep your group small’: Dr. Bonnie Henry on stricter enforcement of Vancouver beach gatherings' ‘Keep your group small’: Dr. Bonnie Henry on stricter enforcement of Vancouver beach gatherings
‘Keep your group small’: Dr. Bonnie Henry on stricter enforcement of Vancouver beach gatherings

Vancouver police said they are aware of the weekly event, and that officers routinely patrol to assist with public safety.

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“Obviously with COVID-19 and the physical distancing measures set out by our Public Health Officer, a crowd of this size isn’t recommended by the (provincial health officer),” said Const. Tania Visintin in an email.

READ MORE: Lawyer fights City of Vancouver over ticket at popular drum circle — but admits there are issues

“As of now, Vancouver police have not been issuing tickets for non-compliance with social distancing/isolating/quarantining. The Vancouver police will continue to focus on public safety, prevention of crimes, and upholding the law.”

It comes as B.C. sees a surge in new COVID-19 cases, with officials warning of the potential for “explosive growth” of the virus.

The number of active cases in B.C. grew to 266 on Tuesday. Officials have warned that most of the new cases are connected to young people in their 20s and 30s.

In 2019, the park board said attendance at the event had climbed as high as 4,000 people. On one night, the event saw 500 liquor pour outs and 280 demands for smokers to butt out.