British Columbia is poised to enter Step 2 of its COVID-19 Restart Plan on Tuesday, June 15, according to the province’s Premier.
Premier John Horgan, a slew of his cabinet ministers and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry held a live news conference on Monday to give a glimpse into what the next step in B.C.’s restart will entail.
With more than 75 per cent of British Columbians ages 18 and up having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and with cases and hospitalizations trending downward, the government says the province is ready to move forward.
“I am confident that we are on track to safely and confidently bridge to Step 2, and am amending the relevant provincial health officer’s orders so we can do just that,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer. “The data shows us that with strong safety plans in place and all of us continuing to use our layers of protection, we can now increase our much-needed social connections a little bit more. Whether it is travelling to visit family in B.C., having a small wedding or watching your child’s soccer game, these are the things we have all missed.”
Horgan said that starting tomorrow, the current travel restrictions in British Columbia will be lifted meaning that residents can move freely throughout the province.
While travel within British Columbia’s borders will be allowed, the government is advising against travel from out-of-province.
“We want that to remain in place as we watch what other province’s across the country do as they start their restart plans as well,” said Horgan on Monday.
The government outlines that anyone travelling within B.C. is asked to “plan ahead and be respectful while visiting communities,” especially smaller and rural towns and Indigenous communities — including respecting local travel advisories.
Dr. Bonnie Henry emphasized on Monday that not every community will be ready to welcome visitors immediately either, so she recommends that travellers do some research ahead of a trip.
The government also calls on British Columbians to refrain from any travel within the province if one is feeling sick.
Other Changes in Step 2
In addition to the easing of non-essential travel restrictions in British Columbia, the government has outlined these changes will come into effect immediately during Step 2:
- Outdoor personal gatherings with a maximum of 50 people will be allowed
- Maximum of 50 people for indoor seated organized gatherings (e.g., movie theatres, live theatre, banquet halls) with safety plans.
- Indoor faith gatherings are allowed with a maximum of 50 people, or 10 per cent of a place of worship’s total capacity, whichever number is greater – with safety plans.
- Maximum of 50 spectators for outdoor sports.
- Liquor service at restaurants, bars and pubs extended until midnight.
- Indoor sports games allowed (no spectators) and the return of high-intensity fitness with safety plans.
Public health safety protocols, such as mask-wearing in all indoor public spaces and physical distancing, will remain in place during Step 2. As well, personal indoor gatherings will be limited to five visitors or one other household.
Horgan also notes that current protocols for businesses will also remain in place until at least Step 3.
“We’re on track to meet all of our milestones through the Restart Plan,” said Horgan during Monday’s press conference. “I know many people are excited about that and I understand those that are anxious, but together we can get to a place where British Columbia can lead the country in economic revival, can continue to be a place where we don’t just flick a switch but we slowly turn the dial back to a normal place for all of us to be as the summer progresses.”
The earliest target start date for Step 3 is July 1, and Sept. 7 for Step 4.