This was the scene in Sidney’s Tulista Park last Tuesday. Sidney’s chief administrative officer Randy Humble said the municipality will encourage residents to ‘play safe and stay safe’ against the backdrop of a COVID-19 surge among youth in following provincial directions, but also said the municipality lacks the legislative authority to enforce social distancing in public spaces. (Submitted)

Sidney can ‘only educate and encourage’ people to social distance

CAO says municipality lacks legislative authority to enforce social distancing in public

Sidney simply lacks the legislative authority to enforce social distancing in public spaces, says the chief administrative officer.

“We can only educate and encourage them to social distance,” CAO Randy Humble told the Peninsula News Review.

He made those comments after the PNR shared pictures of crowds in Tulista Park taken July 21. They show several groups of individuals socializing and playing various sports on the green space between the skateboard park and the playground and public washrooms. While the estimated total numbers of individuals in the area appeared below 50 — the upper limit for public gatherings — several small clusters of individuals dotted the area, with individuals appearing to stand within two metres of each other. Comparable clusters have also appeared on other evenings last week.

RELATED: B.C. records 81 more cases of COVID-19 in B.C. since Friday

Recent days have seen COVID-19 cases in British Columbia spike against the backdrop of images showing large crowds gathering on rafted boats in the Okanagan and on beaches in Vancouver. This imagery has prompted provincial political leaders and health officials including provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to remind the public – specifically youth –to refrain from risky behaviour for not only their own sake, but also for the sake of others, including high-risk groups, such as seniors, which in Sidney accounts for almost 41 per cent of the population.

Humble said the municipality continues to follow the advice and guidance of the provincial health officer. “This includes the [provincial order] limiting crowds of people to less than 50 persons,” he said. “It’s been indicated by Dr. Bonnie Henry that interactions with people that are part of your ‘bubble’ are acceptable while keeping a safe distance from others.”

Henry has also repeatedly indicated that activities outdoors are much safer than those indoors, said Humble. “From the Town’s perspective, we will continue to encourage people to ‘play safe and stay safe.’”

It is not clear whether individuals seen last week belonged to their respective so-called bubbles. This said, it is also important to note the British Columbia COVID-19 Dashboard run by the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control shows Vancouver Island Health Authority with a total of 143 reported cases as of Tuesday, July 28. That figure represents just over four per cent of all reported cases in British Columbia.


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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