As B.C. grapples with a record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and a surge in the more contagious variants of the coronavirus, a dance party was held Friday evening on a crowded Kitsilano Beach in contravention of public health orders.
The beach party happened on the same day B.C. health officials urged people not gather in large groups this weekend because of the variants. It was also the same day as Ontario went into lockdown, banning outdoor gatherings all together.
Beryl Pye, a resident in the area, said she was riding a bike with a friend Friday shortly before 8 p.m. and was horrified to see dozens of people crowded together dancing to loud music on the beach.
Under the public health order, no more than 10 people are allowed to get together outside, and spaced two metres apart unless they are from the same household.
“There was a huge line up for the bathrooms like I’ve never seen,” said Pye on Saturday.
“We sat away from the beach on a peninsula of grass and then a full on dance party with loud music started on the beach. I had to take a video because it upset me so much. There was no police presence at all! It felt like a festival.”
On Friday, B.C. recorded more than 1,000 new COVID cases, six additional deaths, and a third straight day of record hospitalizations, with 425 people in hospital with the coronavirus, surpassing the record of 409 set Thursday.
Out of hospitalized patients, 127 are in intensive care, up two from the previous day.
The Vancouver police have yet to respond to questions about whether anyone was fined at this beach party.
Other social media users posted photos to Twitter and Instagram saying Kits Beach was exceptionally crowded Friday. Beaches and trails are likely to be packed in Metro Vancouver this weekend with the sunny weather, and temperatures expected to hit the mid-20s in some areas.
The province announced measures last summer that provide increased powers for police to enforce provincial health orders at parties and outdoor gatherings.
Vancouver city enforcement staff and park rangers provide education about compliance with provincial health orders at the city’s beaches, parks, bars, restaurants, and businesses offering personal services.
The city recommends residents report all complaints and concerns via VanConnect or by calling 311.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said spending time outside is important for physical and mental well-being but being outside is not without risk.
“Even if we are outside, we need to stay small and continue to use our layers of protection. This means keeping a safe distance and wearing masks, especially if someone is higher risk for serious illness,” she said.
“Be purposeful about who you are seeing and where you are going, and stick with the same close contacts.”
Meantime, Mounties in Surrey are urging Vaisakhi celebrants and Kissan supporters to follow public health orders this weekend.
Large-scale Vaisakhi celebrations have been canceled again this year in Surrey because of the pandemic, however it is anticipated that there will still be many small COVID-friendly celebrations.
Surrey RCMP says officers are also aware of Kissan rallies and a Sikh motorcycle event set to take place this weekend.
Officers will be conducting increased patrols throughout the weekend in Surrey and enforcing the health orders.
-with a file from Cheryl Chan
More to come…