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B.C.’s top doctor looks to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on in-person religious gatherings

Click to play video: 'B.C. looks to allow small outdoor religious service gatherings once again' B.C. looks to allow small outdoor religious service gatherings once again
B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announces at Monday's COVID-19 briefing that officials are still working to safely reopen in-person faith services. Henry acknowledges how difficult it has been for British Columbians to not be able to congregate with those in their faith communities and that religious officials are working on safe plans for Passover and Easter service – Mar 15, 2021

B.C.’s top doctor is looking to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on in-person religious services.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she will soon issue details on how small, outdoor religious gatherings can be held and that planning is underway to gradually allow for the return of indoor faith services.

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Church challenge of government restrictions hears questions about Dr. Bonnie Henry’s policies – Mar 3, 2021

“I know how challenging it has been for many people not allowed to congregate with those in their faith communities,” Henry said during a press conference Monday.

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She said the province plans to allow a class variance to permit outdoor religious services in small numbers in the coming days. The province is also working on a class variance for Passover and Easter.

Read more: B.C. public health rules discriminate against churches, lawyer argues

“We are working on advice… on how we can have a workable approach to the gradual and safe phased reopening of ongoing indoor services for faith groups across the province for all faith services, starting in April,” Henry said. “More details of that will be coming very soon.”

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The order halting in-person religious gatherings has been a flashpoint with some congregations facing fines for defying the rules.

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A group of B.C. churches challenged the province’s COVID-19 rules in court.

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Read more: B.C. reports 1,506 new COVID-19 cases over three days, as total deaths top 1,400

Henry noted that now is a time for hope as more as mass vaccinations are underway, but also a time of caution as there continues to be community transmission of COVID-19.

On Monday, Henry reported 1,506 new cases of COVID-19 over the past three days along with three deaths.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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