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‘This is a warning’: Dix pledges crackdown on parties amid surging coronavirus numbers

Click to play video: 'Why B.C. health officials are so reliant on testing, contract tracing and self- isolation right now.' Why B.C. health officials are so reliant on testing, contract tracing and self- isolation right now.
WATCH: Why B.C. health officials are so reliant on testing, contract tracing and self- isolation right now. – Aug 13, 2020

B.C.’s health minister warned of a crackdown this weekend on people flouting coronavirus restrictions at large social gatherings.

Adrian Dix made the comments Thursday, as the province unveiled unsettling new modelling showing the province heading towards a surge of new cases, sparked in part by younger adults attending private parties.

“What I am saying to people this weekend, particularly with respect to the unequivocal provincial health order on gatherings and the limit of 50 people, is that they can expect to be visited (by public health officers) in what are essentially private parties in public halls,” said Dix.

Read more: Why one expert says B.C. fumbled its coronavirus message to young people

“The rules will be enforced, and that can have consequences in the future.”

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Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, people caught breaking one of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s health orders could face a fine of up to $25,000 and a jail term of up to six months.

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“What this is is warning in advance, this weekend, on what’s going to happen, and our expectation that the rules will be followed in those places,” said Dix.

However, while Dix said environmental health officers would be on patrol at banquet halls and similar businesses, he acknowledged there were limits to provincial enforcement when it comes to parties at private residences.

Click to play video: 'Large social gatherings causing concern for health officials in BC' Large social gatherings causing concern for health officials in BC
Large social gatherings causing concern for health officials in BC – Aug 8, 2020

“We have, of course, in our law and in our society a respect for people’s rights within their property. But I have to say this: if you’re thinking of organizing a party, especially one involving alcohol, where there’s no specific limit on distancing that you’re putting in place, you should not do so,” he said.

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Dix suggested anyone invited to such a party should not attend, quipping that they may want to “consider the friendship” of the person who invited them.

But while there have been several recent exposure events at Vancouver nightclubs, Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry both said there were no plans in the works to shut such businesses down.

Dix said most bars and restaurants in the province have been following the rules and doing a good job.

Read more: Coronavirus exposure reported on 2 nights at Vancouver nightclub

Henry argued that health officials’ approach of working with industry, tightening regulations where needed and closing problem establishments is working.

“We have found places where their (COVID safety) plans are inadequate and those places are shut down until such time as appropriate plans are in place,” said Henry.

“We’re not at a point where we’re seeing that we feel that we need to shut the entire industry down.”

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