All levels of government have expressed concerns about citizens not taking COVID-19 guidelines seriously, and have warned that even more closures will follow if people do not cooperate.
Today across the Lower Mainland, several municipalities have begun to close outdoor recreation spaces in public parks while the Vancouver Park Board is taking the additional step of shutting down its parking lots.
Previously on March 20, park board general manager Malcolm Bromley announced that due to concerns about people in close proximity at city-run playgrounds, all 166 playgrounds in the city would be closed.
North Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Delta, and Port Moody all followed suit. White Rock closed four playgrounds. Surrey, Langley, Maple Ridge, and Pitt Meadows have not yet announced closures of playgrounds.
Due to social gatherings continuing on at Vancouver beaches, VPB’s Bromley had stated that signage about COVID-19 would be added to public spaces.
However, the message has not been heeded by everyone.
In response to continued sports-related gatherings, the Vancouver Park Board (VPB) announced today (March 22) that it is closing all public outdoor recreation facilities at parks and beaches. That includes skate parks, tennis courts, volleyball nets, exercise equipment, and more.
Burnaby, Port Coquitlam, West Vancouver, and Port Moody are similarly closing spaces like sports fields and courts, while Coquitlam is also closing public washrooms. North Vancouver has closed fields to organized sports.
Meanwhile, Richmond, Surrey, White Rock, Langley, Maple Ridge, and Pitt Meadows have not yet announced any measures regarding these areas yet. While Delta has closed skateparks, it has not yet announced closures of sports fields or courts.
The closures do not include beaches and parks themselves, but could potentially be extended to encompass those spaces as well.
The VPB is also removing logs from Vancouver beaches to discourage people sitting close together.
In addition, the VPB announced today (March 22) that it is taking the additional measure of closing parking at its busiest parks.
Today, it will begin closing high-priority locations, including English Bay, Kitsilano Beach, Queen Elizabeth Park, Stanley Park, VanDusen Botanical Garden, Jericho Beach, Locarno Beach, and the Seawall. Closures will later be extended to lower-priority locations.
These closures will be in full effect by the morning of March 23 and will remain in place indefinitely.
On March 20, Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart stated that after speaking with Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer earlier that day, police officers were still observing people in restaurants and cafes in close proximity.
Consequently, the city used its emergency powers to order all restaurant table service to end, with only takeout or delivery permitted.
Previously, all bars were closed by a provincial enforcement order.
Palmer also informed the mayor that officers were seeing private recreation facilities, such as fitness centres and bowling alleys, remaining open.
Stewart gave a stern warning.
“My message to all retailers who remain open is this: now is your time to take aggressive action to do your part to limit the spread of COVID-19,” he said. “If we continue to see non-essential retailers and service providers ignoring our new reality, we will not hesitate to take further action.”
He said they are asking citizens to “stay home, stay away from others, and stay safe”.
“It might seem like a lot, it might sound like an overreaction but when you compare it to what first responders are dealing, with what nurses and doctors are dealing with, what seniors are dealing, with those laid off are dealing with, and what small businesses owners are dealing with, it’s not too much to ask,” he explained.
On March 21, B.C. reported 76 new COVID-19 cases, for a total of 424 cases in the province, with 230 cases in the Vancouver Coastal Heatlh region.
“Despite the extraordinary efforts of federal, provincial, and local governments, we are one of the hardest hit regions in the country,” he had said on March 20.
On March 20 and 21, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered all restaurants across the province to end dining service (takeout and delivery are permitted) and all personal service establishments (such as hair salons, barber shops, tattoo parlour, massage services, and more) to close.
Information on Vancouver closures and service information can be found on the city’s website.