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Spectators banned and travel restricted for B.C. minor sports

New COVID-19 restrictions also suspend Indoor spin classes, yoga and high-intensity interval training
ball field
Spectators will not be allowed at any minor sports games in B.C. following a new provincial health order meant to limit the spread of COVID-19. photo Associated Press

Some games will go on, but there will be no fans in the stands under new minor sports COVID-19 protocols announced today by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

The new restrictions also limit travel for sporting events, restricting the action to “local” competitions only.   

“We will continue with viaSport Phase 3 activities with the exceptions there are to be no spectators at indoor or outdoor sports, and there will be no travel for any of these sports outside of your local community,” Henry said at the Nov. 19 COVID press briefing. “That is the restriction that we need to have in place now across the province to ensure that we can have these important sport activities continue, but in a safe way during this pandemic.”

The B.C. Government website elaborated on the restrictions on spectators, noting that the only non-participants allowed to attend sport activities are “those that provide care to a participant or player. For example, providing first aid.”

“[We] need to pay attention to those pre-game, post-game, off-the-field-of-play situations where we are coming together,” said Henry. “That’s where the no spectators comes in. We have seen that people are coming together.”

Regarding travel for athletic events and practice, Henry attempted to clarify what was meant by restricting travel for competitions to local communities.

“Yes, you can move about within your region,” she said. “If you live in Penticton, you can go to Summerland. If you live in Victoria though, and you want to go to Tofino, that’s not such a good idea.”

The provincial website further noted that “a team from Abbotsford cannot attend a training session in Chilliwack,” and “a team from Victoria cannot attend a practice in Richmond.”

While the descriptions of what exactly constitutes a “local” community for sporting events seemingly left some grey areas, Henry urged caution.

“If you are in doubt, postpone it to a time when we have better management of the transmissions that we’re seeing in our communities right now,” she said.

Henry further elaborated on “local” sports communities in answer to a question from a reporter during the briefing.

“This is not an order, this is telling people to use their common sense,” she said. “When we’re talking about the sports teams, part of the sports networks and the sports organizations had inter-regional travel. So they have their own defined regions. That needs to stop. So you can play the games within your own region only, and there’s no travel between different areas. That is where we’re seeing the risk. The risk is people car-pooling together, having to stay overnight. Because some of the regions were from South Island to North Island, or Powell River to the mainland. That has to stop right now. We can’t have that type of travel.”

The health order notes that high-performance athletes, as identified by the Canadian Sports Institute Pacific and accredited provincial or national sports organizations, are exempted from the travel restrictions provided they are already training in British Columbia and continue to follow safety guidelines of their provincial sports organizations.

Henry also noted that skiers should limit their travel to only their local ski hills. On the North Shore, Cypress Mountain opened for skiing last Friday, while Grouse Mountain announced today it will open tomorrow for skiing and riding.

“The health and safety of our guests and team members is our top priority and we have a number of new safety protocols in place including mandatory advance Skyride reservations, reduced capacity on the Skyride as well as requiring face coverings inside all resort facilities and in areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained,” stated Grouse Mountain director of operations Grant Wahl in a release.

The new health orders also called for the immediate suspension of indoor spin classes, hot yoga and high-intensity interval training. Other indoor activities such as dance, martial arts and cheerleading were not immediately suspended.

“Guidance on [these] other physical activities done with a group indoors will need to follow updated guidance that is being developed,” the order noted. “These activities can stay open while updated guidance is being developed.”