With a four-step plan, British Columbia has revealed its pathway out of the COVID-19 pandemic as cases slow, hospitalizations drop and the number of vaccinated people rises.
The province says with more than 60 per cent of adults vaccinated with their first dose, B.C.’s circuit-breaker measures that shut down indoor dining will be immediately lifted, with a cap of up to six people for indoor dining.
That means indoor group fitness and indoor worship services will also be able to resume, with the latter in a diminished capacity.
Restrictions surrounding gatherings will also be loosened. Indoor personal gatherings are once again permitted, with a maximum of five visitors or one household allowed. Meanwhile, outdoor personal gatherings can also be held once again, with a maximum of 10 people.
Seated outdoor organized gatherings such as weddings will be permitted again as well with a maximum of 50 people, so long as safety protocols are established.
While some health orders were lifted Tuesday, the province announced it would extend travel restrictions between three health regions until at least mid-June. That means travel between Vancouver Island, Vancouver Coastal Health-Fraser Health, and Interior Health-Northern health will not be permitted unless it is considered essential.
Outdoor sports will also resume but without spectators.
Health orders such as the province-wide indoor mask mandate, business safety protocols and six-foot physical distancing will continue through Step 1 of the restart plan.
“British Columbians have sacrificed so much over the last 15 months to help keep people and our communities safe,” said Premier John Horgan.
“We have made tremendous strides with our vaccination program, and we are now in a position where we can move forward with a plan to slowly bring us back together.”
B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the plan proceeding past Step 1 will be dependent on number of adults vaccinated, COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations and deaths, as well as clusters and outbreaks.
“To be successful in this next phase of the pandemic, we need to keep COVID-19 low and slow. To do that, we need to be slow and measured in our approach, gradually turning up the dial on how we spend time together, whether that is socializing with family, going to work or visiting friends,” she said.
The earliest date for Step 2 will be June 15, but that is dependent on 65 per cent of adults getting vaccinated, and cases and hospitalizations continuing to decline.
That step would see a return of allowing up to 50 people at outdoor social gatherings and the reintroduction of indoor seated gatherings such as banquet halls, movie theatres and live theatre.
B.C. travel restrictions would also be dropped in Step 2.
Indoor sports would return and spectators would be able to take in an outdoor game, with a maximum crowd of 50 people.
If case counts continue to be low, hospitalizations decline and at least 70 per cent of people are vaccinated with their first dose, Step 3 will see a return to normal when it comes to indoor and outdoor social gatherings, with no restrictions on either. Step 3 would happen on July 1 at the earliest.
Fairs and festivals will open back up so long as they provide a detailed safety plan. Recreational travel within Canada would also once again be permitted. There would be no group limit for indoor dining and bars and casinos would once again be able to resume operation at a limited capacity.
Step 4, slated for Sept. 7 at the earliest, would see a return to near-normal across all facets of life, with masks becoming a personal choice rather than mandatory. Concerts would be held again and crowd sizes for indoor and outdoor events would be increased, while offices and workplaces would be fully reopened.
Watch the full news conference below: