British Columbia’s top doctor is cracking down on partiers spreading COVID-19 by ordering owners of vacation rental units and hotels across the province to store the contact information of every guest and limit any extra visitors they may invite over to five people.
At her regular media briefing Monday afternoon, Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry said it is up to the owners to ensure their guests are adhering to these new limits on visitors, adding that local health inspectors are stepping up their enforcement to slow infections as people solidify their plans to relax during the approaching long weekend. The order covers hotels as well as short-term rentals, such as Airbnb and VRBO, cabins, yurts, RVs and houseboats.
“This is to get at what we were seeing happening in various places around the province where there were people having parties in their rental suites or in their houses or on boats,” Dr. Henry told reporters after announcing 81 new cases were confirmed during the past weekend. “That means you cannot have a large group of people over to party in your hotel room or on your boat during this period of our COVID summer.”
Owners of any of these hotel or rental units must ensure the names and phone numbers of every guest and any visitors are taken down and stored for 30 days, to enable faster contact tracing in the event an outbreak happens at the property, according to the order.
Last week, Dr. Henry confirmed more than 70 people had contracted COVID-19 and close to 1,000 others across the province were isolating at home after recent packed events and parties in Kelowna, B.C. In response to the uptick in infections, her office imposed stricter rules on bars and nightclubs, requiring all patrons be seated at designated seats and prohibiting them from hitting the dance floor or sidling up to the bar to order their own alcohol.
Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of BC, said owners of rental units should call the authorities if guests are having a party with too many outside guests and they do not feel comfortable enforcing this new order.
Mr. Judas, whose umbrella group lobbies for local tourism agencies around the province, said many hotels are already limiting the number of visitors a guest can invite into their room and taking down people’s names and phone numbers.
“It takes more time and time is money, but, on the other hand, all would agree it’s necessary to prevent the spread,” he said.
Airbnb spokesperson Alex Dagg said, in an e-mailed statement, that the popular online platform has updated its help page to include a link to B.C.‘s order. Before a guest books a room, her statement added, they are advised to check local travel restrictions.
“We are working collaboratively with governments across Canada to ensure a safe and responsible return to travel in Canada and everywhere we operate,” the statement said.
With the recent spate of good weather, crowds of partiers have returned to Shuswap Lake, a four-fingered body of water in B.C.‘s Southern Interior billed as the houseboating capital of Canada, according to Fred Banham, head of the local search and rescue organization.
Hundreds of these boats ply the lake each weekend and must spend the night on shore at one of several beaches, where strangers inevitably start mingling and COVID-19 social bubbles merge, he said.
“It’s gonna happen just because people are social animals,” Mr. Banham said Tuesday. “There are drinks available that make people a little less vigilant and they’re gonna party.”
When the province was locked down battling the virus earlier this year, Mr. Banham and the crew of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue’s 106 Shuswap station predicted they might have just a handful of rescues because of a more subdued summer on the water.
“We’re already up to 15 this year,” he said, adding five incidents have involved people injuring themselves on the steep staircases of houseboats
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