The Vancouver region’s chief medical health officer has ordered all bars and restaurants in downtown Vancouver to close for St. Patrick’s Day in an effort to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus.
Dr. Patricia Daly of Vancouver Coastal Health issued the order late Monday afternoon at the urging of Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who was concerned about street parties breaking out March 17 in downtown.
“This is an official public health order, so failure to comply brings with it quite serious penalties,” Stewart told the Courier by telephone Monday night.
“I don’t have [the penalties] right in front of me, but this isn’t optional. This is a public health order that’s serious. And folks who don’t comply, they’ll face serious fines.”
Earlier in the day, Stewart and city officials held a news conference at city hall, where the mayor urged people not to attend restaurants and bars, if they couldn’t keep one metre from each other.
After the news conference, the mayor said, his office began to receive reports from various sources about large gatherings planned for downtown to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. So the mayor said he spoke to Health Minister Adrian Dix about his concerns, which were relayed to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Daly.
“Really, the concern levels were starting to rise where we would have a very busy evening,” said the mayor, shortly after Daly signed the order.
“I don’t think the ink is even dry yet.”
The mayor wasn’t clear whether bylaw officers, police, or both would be responsible for enforcing the order, although he said he notified Police Chief Adam Palmer “who now knows to take appropriate action.”
The order will affect several hundred bars and restaurants, particularly in the Granville strip’s entertainment zone and throughout Gastown. Henry also issued an order Monday prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people, which applies to the entire province. As of Monday, 103 people had tested positive for COVID-19. Four people have died since the first reported case in January.