Playland postpones re-opening following backlash

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A popular amusement park in Vancouver is delaying its re-opening until after the May long weekend, after backlash to its original plan to open this Saturday.

Playland organizers say they have spoken with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and “concerns were raised related to Playland drawing travel outside of the regional health authorities.”

Travel restrictions discourage people from non-essential travel outside their health regions. They also could result in fines for people found travelling into Vancouver Coastal or Fraser Health without a good reason.

Several people expressed concern and outrage over the original May 1 opening date, saying they did not make sense, given the current rules.

‘Nothing is completely safe’ says public health expert

However, one expert says given enhanced security measures at Playland, it could have been a secure outing this weekend.

“If these restrictions are followed, this is almost a safer environment than anything else outdoors,” said Michael Brauer with the UBC School of Public Health. “People can gather in parks and we know there are guidelines, but there are no restrictions on that.”

Laura Ballance, who speaks for Playland, said earlier Tuesday the park has a “robust” safety plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We have taken a number of steps, everything from a significantly reduced capacity, to spacing between the actual seats on the rides, to spacing in the lineups, to masks throughout lines and on rides, to our sanitization program,” she explained before the decision was made to postpone the re-opening date.

Brauer adds that even though safety protocols would help make going to Playland safe, there is no room for error.

“Of course nothing these days, especially with the new variants, is completely safe. It is really important that these guidelines be followed — and I mean absolutely followed,” he admitted.

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Brauer notes that there is evidence suggesting being outdoors is much safer than indoors.

“We know that outdoor is much safer in terms of transmission and it is one thing that can be offered to people for some recreation purposes that is outdoors and in a relatively safe environment — so from that perspective considering people’s mental health and need for some kind of a release, it seems like a relatively safe thing to do,” he said.

On Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry said no one from outside of the Lower Mainland should be visiting the amusement park.

“We do know that outside is safer than inside, but we’re at a very challenging time right now in this pandemic, and now is not the time that we want to see people coming together for recreational reasons,” Henry said.

Brauer does have some advice for families hoping to take their kids to Playland whenever it does open. He suggests wait until the summer months when vaccination is more rampant.

“Right now we are not in a great place,” he said. “It may be wise if you’re thinking of going — you delay it until things are better in terms of transmission as we do expect cases should drop especially as we get people vaccinated.”

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