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B.C. dance studios, other indoor group activity spaces must close amid COVID-19 restrictions

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: B.C. orders all indoor group fitness activities to close immediately' Coronavirus: B.C. orders all indoor group fitness activities to close immediately
Provincial health has ordered all indoor group fitness activities in B.C. to close immediately. The new rules apply to dance studios, Pilates classes, yoga, gymnastics and cheerleading. They were previously excluded from the health order - introduced last Thursday by health officials. – Nov 24, 2020

​All gymnastic centres, dance studios, martial arts venues and yoga studios in British Columbia must immediately close, according to the province.

The new guidelines were posted on the B.C. government website Tuesday under the heading “Athletic Activities.”

“Venues that organize or operate other types of indoor group physical activities must suspend them temporarily while new guidance is being developed,” the website reads.

“Venues must use the new guidance to update and re-post their COVID-19 Safety Plan before resuming operations.”

Click to play video 'Fraser Health declares outbreak at Chilliwack dance school' Fraser Health declares outbreak at Chilliwack dance school
Fraser Health declares outbreak at Chilliwack dance school – Nov 3, 2020

The new guidelines also apply to venues for pilates, strength and conditioning, and cheerleading.

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In a statement, the Ministry of Health notes the province is constantly learning about the virus and updating guidance based on what we are seeing around the world, across Canada and in B.C.

“Right now we are seeing record COVID-19 transmission and hospitalizations in our communities, and this is putting a strain on our testing staff, contact tracers, and frontline health-care workers,” the statement reads.

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“The orders issued last week by the Provincial Health Officer are to reduce the rapid transmission we are seeing in indoor settings, including during group fitness activities.”

Click to play video 'Metro Vancouver indoor fitness studios frustrated by mixed messaging' Metro Vancouver indoor fitness studios frustrated by mixed messaging
Metro Vancouver indoor fitness studios frustrated by mixed messaging – Nov 18, 2020

The new guidance is being finalized and is expected to be available this week. Facilities will not need to seek permission from local health authorities before opening, but there will be increased inspections to ensure facilities are complying with the new guidelines.

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The measures are part of sweeping, and sometimes confusing, new rules that aim to cut down on social gatherings in the province.

Businesses that close due to COVID-19 restrictions may be eligible for rent support from the Government of Canada.

Dance studio operators have repeatedly expressed frustration about being shut down as part of the COVID-19 measures and many insist they have health and safety plans in place to ensure the virus does not spread.

But dance studios have also been the site of major outbreak events, include 30 cases linked to a studio in Chilliwack.

Click to play video 'Edmonton girl pens letter to MLA questioning dance studio closure' Edmonton girl pens letter to MLA questioning dance studio closure
Edmonton girl pens letter to MLA questioning dance studio closure – Nov 15, 2020

Read more: Dancers, studio owners urge B.C. to remove them from latest COVID-19 restrictions

A group of dance studio owners and dance parents are supporting an online petition that calls for dance studios to be exempt from the provincial orders.

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“It is unfair for us to be targeted. We have suffered from March onwards as we have navigated COVID protocols with no overseeing sports or arts organization, with decreased participation due to reluctant parents and little rent relief as it was left optional for our landlords,” petition creator Denise Akester writes.

“We have worked tirelessly to keep dance spaces safe so children can return and continue what they love. We understand that B.C. is in the middle of a health crisis and increased measures need to be taken but we also think it is unjust to ask us to shoulder this burden when we are already providing the safest environment possible and we are not responsible for the recent dramatic increase in cases.”

New research and advice from provincial health officers around the world have led B.C. officials to express concerns about indoor, group physical activities.

The province has shut down high-risk indoor group physical activities — such as spin classes, hot yoga and high-intensity interval training — indefinitely. These businesses will not be able to create a new health and safety plan for now because the province does not know how to create guidelines that would prevent transmission in these settings.