Northern Health Authority has issued revised public health orders on Dec. 9, permitting in-person worship services for vaccinated people up to 50 per cent capacity inside the venue. (Black Press Media file photo)

Northern Health Authority has issued revised public health orders on Dec. 9, permitting in-person worship services for vaccinated people up to 50 per cent capacity inside the venue. (Black Press Media file photo)

New public health order permits in-person worship in northern B.C.

Northern Health issues revised events and gatherings orders

Religious and faith-based organizations are permitted to resume in-person worship services under a revised Provincial Health Order, Northern Health Authority (NHA) announced on Dec. 9.

Under the Gatherings and Events PHO, one specific caveat to the 50 per cent capacity limitation is only vaccinated worshipers may attend with COVID-19 safety requirements in place. Anyone over the age of 11 must be vaccinated to attend.

“The regional public health orders covering all of the NH area are in response to sustained rates of COVID-19 activity and the impact on health care resources,” the health authority stated in its media release.

The revised order took effect at midnight, Dec. 10, 2021, and will be in place until at least Jan. 31, 2022. Northern Health and provincial public health officials will continue to evaluate levels of COVID-19 activity and ongoing impacts on the health care system, individuals, and communities, the statement reads.

The ban on worship was enacted on Nov. 30 with orders from the Northern Health Region public health officer and was not a province-wide health order. Worship bans in a few Fraser Health regions were also in effect.

Some faith-based organizations and church bodies took exception to the cancelling of in-person services and claimed the Nov. 30 health orders were unfair. A Prince Rupert group named ReopenWorship.org called on the public, Dec. 8 to assemble in private residences in groups of 10 in a campaign effort to have the health orders amended.

Fellowship Baptist Church in Prince Rupert voiced its concerns to the Public Health Office in a letter dated Dec. 9.

“The current MHO contains blatantly, and unnecessarily discriminatory language based on religious affiliation. Further, such language is counterproductive and divisive,” the letter stated.

Health orders were amended the next day.

“Under the recent changes, faith-based organizations will be allowed to resume in-person worship services, as long as they are limited to 50 per cent capacity in the place of worship and all participants over the age of 11 are vaccinated. Virtual or drive-in services can be held without a check of vaccination status,” Northern Health stated.

The revised order removes the necessity for proof of vaccination at outside events in line with provincial measures.

Other revisions include the increase to 10 fully-vaccinated people gathering inside personal residences and up to 25 outside. This is up from five and 15.

Inside seated events, such as weddings, funerals, theatre and performing arts events, are increased go to 50 per cent of venue capacity with proof of vaccination. This was increased from a 50 person limit. Outside event capacity has expanded to allow 50 per cent capacity from a 100-person cap.

Northern Health reminded the public vaccination continues to be the best line of defence against COVID-19.

There are ongoing vaccine clinic opportunities throughout the region, including for newly-eligible 5 to 11-year-olds. To find a clinic, visit: https://www.northernhealth.ca/health-topics/covid-19-immunization-clinics.

COVID-19Northern Health