P.E.I. is implementing a set of temporary social gathering restrictions after the province announced yet another record number of daily COVID-19 cases.
Thirty-five new cases have been confirmed on the Island. All new cases are under investigation, and contact tracing is underway. The province will be reaching out to close contacts with instructions on testing and isolation requirements.
"With record numbers of cases of COVID-19 in the last number of days and a record number of active cases in P.E.I., additional measures will be added," Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said in a release.
"These additional steps to limit gatherings and contacts are in efforts to prevent further community transmission of COVID-19 in our province."
Weddings, funerals no longer permitted
Starting Friday at 8 a.m., wedding and funeral receptions as well as wakes and visitations will no longer be permitted.
Organized gatherings such as worship services, wedding and funeral ceremonies, concerts and shows will be capped at 50 people, and there must be proper physical distancing between individuals from different households.
Venues shall operate up to 50 per cent capacity. Multiple cohorts of 50 are not permitted.
The 50-person cap doesn't include staff and officiants.
No choirs or congregational singing will be allowed at worship services, though they can have a single person singing.
Day camps will be limited to groups of 15 participants over a single day. Early learning and child care centres, or licensed school-aged centres, are excluded as they're already operating under elevated precautions.
Schools move to remote learning
The new measures are in addition to the temporary measures the province has announced in the last couple of weeks.
The measures will be in effect for two weeks, until Jan. 8.
They were announced on the same day the province said schools across the Island will remain closed until at least Jan. 10, and classes will instead move online amid rising cases.
P.E.I. now has 165 active cases. The province has had 588 total cases since the pandemic began, with 144 of those cases announced since last Thursday.
COVID-19 cases on P.E.I.
More visiting restrictions announced
Later on Thursday, Health P.E.I. said it was placing additional restrictions for people visiting its facilities.
No general visitors will be allowed in any of the province's hospitals, though a limit of up to three partners in care will be permitted per patient.
Partners in care must follow infection control guidelines, including wearing medical-grade masks at all times.
Accommodations for visiting will be made for compassionate reasons if they're approved by hospital administrators.
The new measures for hospital are similar to ones the province put in place for long-term care homes on Wednesday, when COVID-19 outbreaks were declared at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Riverview Manor nursing home in Montague.
Patients can leave the hospital on a pass with their partners in care only. They will need to follow CPHO guidelines while they're out of the facilities.
Health P.E.I. said it will review these restrictions on Jan. 5. and promised to remove them "as soon as it was safe."
Jason Lee is the CEO of P.E.I. Seniors Home, where similar restrictions have also been put in place. He said the new restrictions are a disappointment for many Island families, but it must be done to keep residents safe.
"Well the rules have tightened up at a very unfortunate time," he said. "It's Christmas and people want to be together this time of year more so than any other time of year."
Christmas Eve service affected
Some P.E.I. churches are now reducing the size of their Christmas Eve service as a result of the new gathering restrictions, some even cancelling outright.
The evening services at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cornwall won't be held in person. Instead, the church will be streaming its ceremony online.
Service at Trinity United Church won't be cancelled. But Reverend Arthur Davies said he'll be calling some churchgoers to tell them not to come, as too many people had signed up to attend before the new gathering limits.
"If that's what health people say is required, then OK. You know, we'll certainly do whatever they say we need to do," Davies said.
"It's disappointing for families looking forward to this time of the year."