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FAQ: What’s allowed during the holidays under B.C.’s COVID-19 restrictions?

WATCH: B.C. extends ban on social gatherings until Jan. 8.

We know people have questions about recent COVID-19 orders put in place by B.C.’s provincial health officer.

In order to help clarify what they mean for the province, we took some of your questions directly to health officials for their responses.

Every person’s situation is different, so while the below information answers some specific questions, as we go into the holiday season and new year the question provincial health officials want people to ask themselves is, “Am I doing my part to reduce my in-person social interactions?”

Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix have been consistent in asking everyone to limit non-essential travel and social gatherings.

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Christmas cancelled: B.C. public health orders extended through January – Dec 7, 2020

Each interaction is a chance for the COVID-19 virus to spread.

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Health officials continue to remind us that this is not the time to look for loopholes.

This list of frequently asked questions is an opportunity to provide clarity. Where things are unclear, find reasons to rule activities out, not to rule them in, officials say.

“We know the coming weeks will be difficult, but the sacrifices we make now will protect our loved ones and countless others across our province in the coming months.,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

Indoor family gatherings

Are grandparents who do childcare for their grandchildren on a regular basis allowed to get together for Christmas dinner with those grandchildren along with the grandchildren’s parents?

Grandparents who provide childcare for their grandchildren may spend Christmas together. However, this is not an excuse to make a grandparent a childcare provider in order to spend the holidays together. The intent of the order is to reduce the number of interactions you have with others to reduce the chances of the virus spreading – remember, each interaction is a new chance for the virus to spread.

Read more: Grandparents who provide essential childcare can spend holidays with grandkids, B.C. minister says

My husband and I live alone and are needed to daycare our grandson. Other than this we isolate.
Our daughter’s family and our son who lives alone were intending to isolate for 14 days and then move in with us and isolate for four days over Christmas. Is this allowed?

If you already provide childcare on a regular basis for your daughter’s children, and your son lives alone, you can spend Christmas together. However, all of you should consider reducing the number of interactions you have with others to reduce your chances of catching or spreading the virus.

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My mom, who lives alone, abides by all restrictions, only goes out for essential purchases, but lives in a different community in the same health region as I do. She is in my “core bubble” – can we spend Christmas with her? We have been in a bubble with her since day 1.

Yes, your mom may join your household for Christmas. Those who live alone should keep seeing the same one or two people who are considered their core bubble, as this is so important for our mental health. However, remember that your mom is now connected with anyone the members of your household have interacted with. All of you, including your mom, should limit interactions with others.

I am 73. I live alone with my dog. My daughter has been my lifeline since my husband died. I do work, so I do leave my home. Did the new rules issued this week say I have to stay home by myself at Christmas and cannot go to my daughter’s home for Christmas? Her household is a family of 5. Does this really mean we can’t have a day together in her home? Does this really mean I have to be at home alone?

We are very sorry for your loss. Spending time with our loved ones is so important for our happiness, well-being and overall mental health. Yes, you can join your daughter for Christmas. Consider her household your bubble and if possible, reduce the number of interactions you have with others. They may also want to reduce their interactions with others, so they limit the chance of catching the virus and spreading it to you.

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Read more: B.C. extends ban on social gatherings until Jan. 8, restricting Christmas and New Year’s events

We need to know clarification on co-parenting for Christmas celebrations. If we have 2 sets of parents for the kids, are we allowed to have a dinner as one household since the kids go back and forth each week? According to the household definition it would be one household, but it isn’t just one co-parent. Can we clarify if this is one household?

Each interaction we have is a new chance for the virus to spread, so reducing the number of interactions we have with others is the best way to reduce our chances of catching or spreading the virus. Yes, you may have both co-parents over for dinner, and all of you should limit your interactions with other people.

Can I as a single parent with a 14-year-old who also visits his dad’s house be OK to have one or two people who I can socialize with besides my son as is permitted for those who live alone?

Yes, those who live alone should absolutely have their one or two-person bubble to help support them during this time. However, remember that each interaction is a chance for the virus to spread. Since you live with your son, consider having only one other person in your bubble for now.

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Are people who live alone allowed to get together with their daughter and her family (a total of 4 people) for Christmas dinner if it isn’t in the person who lives alone’s house? Or are people who live alone expected to not celebrate with others during the holidays?

Those who live alone should absolutely spend time with their core bubble over the holidays. This is so important for our happiness, well-being and mental health. If you are joining your daughter and her family for Christmas dinner, consider them your bubble and limit your interactions with others.

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What sort of rules are there around Santa Claus visiting? 

We have it on very good authority that Santa Claus is first in line for vaccine, and that he is immune to this virus. And we expect that that will be the case by Christmas time. And that he is able to do what he usually does.

But I will say a couple of things. He is going to be very, very careful. And he is going to be wearing masks when he is houses, and he is going to be cleaning his hands a lot. And the reindeer are going to be very careful as well. So no leaving out the cookies and milk this year. And let’s just be happy that he can make it around the world.

Read more: Santa Claus to be ‘first in line for vaccine,’ cleared to make deliveries, Henry assures B.C. kids

Could people have a small family gathering (six people) if everyone isolates for two weeks prior?

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We are asking that people do not gather at this time. Remember that each interaction we have with someone is a new chance for the virus to spread – and it only takes one interaction for that to happen. However, we understand that many people want to spend time with family over the holidays. If one person is joining a household for dinner, they should consider that household their bubble and not gather with others.

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If all six people are from different households, consider a virtual option instead. We know this is tough but remember that the sacrifices we make now will protect our loved ones and countless others throughout our province.

I’m actually debating this with my husband. My brother-in-law lives alone, so he can spend Christmas with my husband and me. Can he do this at either his home or ours? Or just his? Hubby thinks the wording implies we have to go to his place and yes, this is actually a question!

Either location is OK. What is important to remember is that if your brother-in-law is joining you for dinner, you are his bubble, and all of you should reduce the number of interactions you have with others.

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I’ve got a family of three. We are not travelling to the island to see my big family, just wondering if we can invite my mother in law who lives alone over for Christmas day?

For your mother-in-law, and anyone else who lives alone, they can absolutely spend time with their core bubble, especially over the holidays. If you are part of her bubble, then yes, you can invite her over for Christmas. However, if her bubble consists of other people, she should spend time with them instead and consider a virtual option with your family.

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I am a senior living alone. All my friends have families, I don’t have another single person to spent Christmas with. My daughter is a family of four and are the only people in my bubble.-Sometimes I do daycare care for them, three or four days a month. My understanding from reading the rules is that I can’t spend Christmas with them. I can assure you this will not be good for my mental or physical health. There is no other answer for me. I have faithfully followed all other rules and in fact rarely go out.

We understand this has been a very difficult time, especially for those living alone. We agree that maintaining a social connection with our loved ones is important for our mental health. The intent of the order is to reduce the number of interactions we have so we can limit the chances of the virus spreading. If your daughter is already in your core bubble, you are welcome to join her family for Christmas, if everyone feels safe doing so.

Read more: B.C.’s top doctor goes viral for ‘happy dance’ ahead of vaccine rollout

I’m an only child and live with only my mom, however my Dad is in my bubble for transportation. Am I allowed to see a friend who also is an only child and lives just on her own? Her mom is friends with mine so can we hang out as a family or is that not allowed?

We understand how difficult it is not being able to see your friends and family right now. This is important so we can protect our loved ones and countless others throughout our province. Your parents are your core bubble, and right now, you should only be spending time with them. Over the holidays, consider a virtual dinner or party with your friend and her mom instead, so you can be festive while keeping each other safe.

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B.C. social restrictions extended through Christmas and New Year’s – Dec 7, 2020

I am sad about not being able to be with my family at Christmas. I live alone. Apparently, I can have one or two people visiting me, but I can’t go to my family. I think it would be much safer for me to go there because we are all taking precautions and we have all been healthy. Am I understanding this properly? 

To clarify, your core bubble should be the same one or two people who you regularly see. If your family is all in one household, you are welcome to join them for Christmas. You should consider them your bubble and reduce interactions with other people, and they should do the same.

If your family members all live in different households, consider a virtual option this year. We know this is tough but remember that the sacrifices we make now will protect our loved ones and countless others throughout our province.

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What if your family members self-isolate for before Christmas Day for 10 days and 10 days after? Then could you have just your immediate family of six people?

The intent of the order is to reduce the number of interactions we have with others to reduce the chances of the virus spreading – each interaction is a new chance for the virus to spread. If all of your family members are from different households, consider a virtual option this year. We know this is tough but remember that the sacrifices we make now will protect our loved ones and countless others throughout our province.

I live only with my husband, so not alone. But he travels for work and will be away through Christmas. What does that mean for me?

We know that many people want to spend time with family and friends over the holidays. If your husband will be away, consider safely spending time with one other person that you regularly see.

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Will Santa be safe going from house to house during the pandemic this Christmas? – Dec 10, 2020

Outdoor family gatherings

On Christmas Day can we visit our four grandchildren and our daughter/son-in-law and our son/daughter-in-law outdoors?

We know that not being able to spend time with our loved ones in-person over the holidays is going to be difficult. For now, we are asking that you do not gather, either indoors and outdoors, with anyone outside your immediate household or core bubble.

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Instead, consider a virtual option for gift-opening, dinner, or other celebrations. As hard as the coming weeks may be, let’s remember that the sacrifices we make now will protect our loved ones and countless others throughout our province in the coming months. Your efforts and sacrifices are making a difference.

I just would really like to know the reasoning behind not being able to meet with my “safe six” outside. We have faithfully followed the guidelines, suggestions and mandates given by Dr. Bonnie Henry, but this order being extended into January feels punitive.

We know this is a challenging time to be away from our loved ones. The order is not meant as a punishment, but rather as a protective measure to help all of us keep each other safe. We know most people are doing their best to reduce their interactions, but the virus is still spreading. By not gathering with others, either inside or outside, we can help to stop that spread. As hard as the coming weeks may be, let’s remember that the sacrifices we make now will protect our loved ones and countless others throughout our province in the coming months.

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We have a few family members who have set up 10×10 tents in their back yards outside of a sliding door into the house. One at a time, households come and sit in the tent with heaters and visit with the household who live there staying inside the house. Is this no longer allowed?

We are asking that people do not gather, either indoors or outdoors, at this time. Remember that each interaction we have with someone is a new chance for the virus to spread – and it only takes one interaction for that to happen. We know this is tough but remember that the sacrifices we make now will protect our loved ones and countless others throughout our province.

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We have one family member who has a carport, so they stay in the house and visit with the other household stay back in the carport. Is this no longer allowed?

We are asking that people do not gather, either indoors or outdoors, at this time. Remember that each interaction we have with someone is a new chance for the virus to spread – and it only takes one interaction for that to happen. We know this is tough but remember that the sacrifices we make now will protect our loved ones and countless others throughout our province.

My sister and brother-in-law live in a basement suite while I live upstairs with my mother. We share laundry facilities and a yard. Should we stay completely separated from them for Christmas? Is it acceptable to see each other distanced in our shared backyard?

The intent of the order is to reduce the number of interactions you have with others to reduce the chances of the virus spreading – remember, each interaction is a new chance for the virus to spread. However, we understand that many people want to spend time with family over the holidays. If you choose to spend time with your sister and brother-in-law over the holidays, all of you should consider each other your immediate household and reduce the number of interactions you have with other people.

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Travel restrictions

I have two children who are away at university and planning on coming home for the Christmas break (which has now been extended). Any problems with that when looking at Provincial Health Orders? A reporter mentioned “banned travel” yesterday but I thought it was just discouraged unless essential.

Non-essential travel is strongly discouraged; however, students are allowed to return home for the holidays. Students should take precautions while travelling and must remember that they should only be spending time with those in their household. That means no visiting with friends or family outside that bubble.

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Can you clarify what they mean by travel? Can we move about the Lower Mainland or are we only allowed in our own city? What if we need to go a few cities over to take things to elderly relatives?

All non-essential travel outside of your community is strongly discouraged. However, bringing essential items to elderly relatives is allowed, even if they live a few cities away. Remember to take precautions while around them, like wearing a mask and maintaining physical distancing as much as possible, so you can keep them safe.

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Can Burnaby grandparents drop off meals in Richmond? (No contact, not indoors, all masked)

Yes, dropping off meals and other essential items is allowed. Remember to take precautions, like wearing a mask and maintaining physical distancing, so you can keep each other safe.

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Can a youth travel to a neighbouring community for an individual sport competition?

At this time, all youth sports games, tournaments and competitions are suspended. Travel to, from and between communities for youth sports practices is also prohibited. More information on this can be found here.

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Businesses

Why are restaurants still open?

Restaurants have COVID-19 safety plans in place that reduce transmission so you can attend with your immediate household or core bubble.

Any discussion about evictions or an eviction ban? We are being forced to move and will have to stay with family a short time during the transition. If we weren’t being evicted, we would stay apart, instead we will be spending the holiday with parents.

The ban on issuing evictions for non-payment of rent ended Aug. 18, 2020. This means that tenants must pay rent in full on the day it is due, or they can be evicted.

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A landlord may issue a Notice to End Tenancy for unpaid rent or utilities if the tenant failed to pay rent that was due before March 18, 2020 or the tenant fails to pay full rent due after August 17, 2020 (for most renters that would be September 1, 2020)

Late payment of rent and non-payment of rent during the specified period of March 18, 2020 to Aug. 17, 2020 are not considered “cause” for eviction.

More information and details on how to contact the Residential Tenancy Branch for information, education and dispute resolution services for landlords and tenants, can be found here.

How is it door-to-door sales is still able to function right now? Shouldn’t that be part of the restrictions due to the highest risk of exposure?

Door-to-door sales are considered the same as any business and must have a COVID-19 safety plan in place, including maintaining physical distancing and wearing a mask.

Other questions

Santa needs to do some shopping. Can we leave the kiddos with family? Friends? A babysitter from down the street?

As much as possible, we hope Santa is able to shop online this year. However, if in-person shopping is required, yes, childcare provided by one family member or caregiver is allowed. Remember, this is not a loophole for playdates or gatherings.

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Coronavirus: Confusion and concern over new public health orders in B.C – Nov 23, 2020

Why can’t the island have restrictions relaxed given our low numbers?

Most regions across the province, including Island Health, are seeing increased numbers of COVID-19 cases. The PHO orders are not meant as a punishment, but rather as a protective measure for all of us to help keep each other safe.

What is the role of the consultant that was hired by the province with regards to religious services?

On Monday, Dec. 7, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced that Robert Daum, fellow and lead of diversity and innovation at Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, will conduct a series of discussions with faith leaders on behalf of government to ensure the PHO orders are understood and followed.

Would mom (Dr. Bonnie Henry) allow outdoor drive-in church services?

Yes, drive-in worship services are allowed to a maximum of 50 vehicles, as long as safety measures are in places, including ensuring that no one leaves their vehicle and congregates outside. As well, those attending the services should do so with only their household in the vehicle.

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