COVID-19

Everything's Closed: Here's How You Can Still Get Out

This shutdown could last upwards of two months, so you’re going to need to get outside sooner or later

By Tristin Hopper
March 19, 2020
COVID-19

Everything's Closed: Here's How You Can Still Get Out

This shutdown could last upwards of two months, so you’re going to need to get outside sooner or later

By Tristin Hopper
Mar 19, 2020
COVID-19

Everything's Closed: Here's How You Can Still Get Out

This shutdown could last upwards of two months, so you’re going to need to get outside sooner or later

By Tristin Hopper
March 19, 2020
Everything's Closed: Here's How You Can Still Get Out
Nothing says "social distancing" like a few meters of ocean (Anne Catherine for The Capital)

Note: Some of these entries may now be out of date since originally published. For instance, as of April 1 campgrounds and most parks are now closed, as is Butchart Gardens. Please verify independently before pursuing any of the activities below.

The last seven days have seen an unprecedented shutdown of public life. Bars are closed, cinemas are shuttered and dating is virtually a biohazard. But you need not become a shut-in to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Below, by relying on the best available evidence on COVID-19 transmission, The Capital has assembled this list of ways to safely leave the house.

Head to a beach or public park (so long as you avoid the playground)

According to a New England Journal of Medicine study published Tuesday, COVID-19 can survive for a remarkably long time on “hard” surfaces. If the virus is coughed onto plastic or steel, it can remain there for upwards for three days. So, in venturing outside the house, you’ve got two things to worry about: Keep at least a meter away from everyone else, and avoid any surfaces that might be harbouring viruses. Victoria’s many outdoor areas are perfect on both those counts. Head to the beach. Go for a hike. Stroll Beacon Hill Park. Walk the length of the Ogden Point Breakwater. Spend a day exploring the Juan de Fuca Trail. But just be wary around playgrounds, public bathrooms and handrails. The BC Search and Rescue Association is also bracing for a lot of “social distancers” to get lost, so they’ve released a list of tips on how your COVID-19-driven commune with nature can avoid morphing into a rescue mission.

The lighthouse at the end of the Ogden Point breakwater. Just steer clear of the handrails and you'll be fine (Michael Klajban)

Go camping

Parks Canada has implemented a nationwide shutdown of its visitor centres and national historic sites. But they can’t close the outdoors, and it’s still possible to pitch a tent at any designated campsite; provided you don’t mind sleeping in a place that is suddenly devoid of park rangers. “Should Canadians decide to visit, they should remember that they are always responsible for their own safety,” warns the agency. BC Parks have similarly kept outdoor areas open, which for Victorians means that they can still safely book a weekend getaway anywhere from French Beach to Sooke Mountain.

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Take up golfing, cycling or kayaking

COVID-19 has taken a scythe to team sports. The city’s pools and recreation centres are all closed. _. Even a game of pickup basketball involves repeatedly coming into contact with a ball that is slick with the handborne microorganisms of your fellow players. But Victoria happens to be a city that is rich is some of the few sports that you can still safely pursue under COVID-19 restrictions. Victoria golf courses are already seeing a bump in business as compared to March of last year. The Galloping Goose is still racking up respectable numbers of cyclists, despite a noticeable drop in commuters. And, of course, the region’s various paddleboarders, kayakers and canoeists haven’t been hindered a bit. In fact, watersports might be the ideal COVID-19 activity: Nothing says “social distancing” than putting a few dozen meters of ocean between yourself and the nearest shore.

Observe the stars

Victoria is facing a spate of remarkably clear weather over the coming weeks, which means it’s an optimum time to reacquaint yourself with the night sky. Just this weekend, you can spot a rare converging of Mars and Jupiter, or you can glimpse the Earth’s light glinting off the moon on the Vernal Equinox. Whatever COVID-19 is going to do to us, take heart that these celestial bodies have hung over much worse. Meanwhile, just last night, NASA astronaut Jennifer Meir, an alumnus of UBC, snapped a photo of the Vancouver university while passing by overhead in the International Space Station. If you want to spot her the next time she flies over, NASA has an online guide on when the ISS can be seen.

Visit Butchart Gardens

Almost all of Victoria’s usual tourist favourites are closed: The Royal BC Museum, Craigdarroch Castle, Miniature World and even the Beacon Hill Park petting zoo. The only major paid attraction to escape shutdown in Victoria is Butchart Gardens. The park is large and open enough that it’s still possible to take in the flowers while practicing safe social distancing. In a statement, Butchart officials noted they are carefully restricting the number of entrants to ensure no crowds form, they have closed all their indoor spaces and they’ve even stopped accepting cash. 

tristin@capnews.ca