COVID-19 in B.C.: Dr. Bonnie Henry issues health order for alcohol sales on New Year's Eve

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      As British Columbians prepare to celebrate the arrival of the new year, B.C. is also taking action to prevent further transmission of COVID-19.

      Today (December 30), B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced on a conference call with media that she is issuing a one-time provincial health order.

      As a preventive measure against “risky behaviour”, including social gatherings and parties, Henry is ordering all liquor sales in the province to cease at 8 p.m. on December 31, until 9 a.m. on January 1.

      She said it’s a revision of the current health order restricting the hours of service of alcohol at food and beverage establishments, and that this order includes retail locations that sell liquor such as grocery stores as well as restaurants, pubs, and more.

      Henry said the timing “does allow for restaurants to have meal service” that include alcohol service and to have a second seating that will allow guests to order alcohol with their meals.

      She said this order is to try and prevent spontaneous parties from developing, particularly in places such as resort communities.

      “The purpose is to decrease the late-night consumption of alcohol that leads to, what we know, can be risky behaviour, including gatherings and parties that we have seen lead to increased transmission of this virus,” she said.

      Henry said current health orders in place stipulate that one hour after liquor sales stop (at 8 p.m.), establishments that only serve alcohol and don’t offer meal service will have to close. Consequently, bars will have to close at 9 p.m.

      However, restaurants (which Henry said have been doing “a really good job” with health measures) can remain open after 8 p.m. and continue to provide meal service (though without alcohol).

      Dix clarified that the food and beverage sector has “been doing quite well” and that this is a “measured response to deal with specific concern about New Year’s Eve, and not a general response about how the sector has been doing”.

      The issue, she said, isn’t to do with people going out to have a meal with those in their households—she said problems arise with extra alcohol consumption and late-night party atmospheres.

      She also mentioned that the measures are also to prevent staff and other patrons being put at risk.

      When asked how she feels about people dining out at restaurants on New Year’s Eve, Henry said she is fine with that.

      “I am absolutely comfortable with people dining out at restaurants that have a strong plan and most of them in the province do,” she said, “but I think we need to remember that that means staying to your household, your small group of people.”

      A maximum of six people can be seated at a table.

      Henry said she goes to many restaurants and feels “very comfortable” that they are following safety guidelines.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.