On Thursday, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry came out with some surprising news — that public health orders would be amended to allow outdoor gatherings with up to 10 people.
“Go out and play a game in the park, have a picnic, have a barbecue in your backyard, but keep your distance,” Henry said.
READ MORE: B.C. allowing up to 10 people to gather outdoors, limiting St. Patrick’s Day liquor sales
It means kids can have play dates and teens can hang out with their friends over spring break. It will provide a critical social opportunity when they won’t be in school, says one psychologist.
“These changes are really good for our mental health,” said Dr. Bonnie Leadbeater. “The flowers are coming out, the spring is coming together, this kind of ‘let us out’ is getting a real boost I think from all kinds of places and it does feel big.”
But there are rules. The 10-person gatherings should be the same 10 people every time, there is to be absolutely no gathering indoors, and the rules don’t apply to bars and restaurants — even on patios.
But some are nervous that people will take advantage of the change right at a time when variant cases are doubling each week in the province.
“I would really hate to see another spike and more risk in our community,” one woman at Willow’s Beach in Oak Bay told CHEK News.
But with vaccinations ramping up each day, one COVID-19 modeller says he’s feeling confident about where we’re heading.
“I’m feeling good, I’m anticipating the pandemic in most ways should be at an end by mid to late summer in B.C.,” said UBC Mathematics Professor and Epidemiologist Daniel Coombs.
And Coombs says he doesn’t see the new outdoor gathering rules changing that.
“From what I’ve seen around the world over the last year I don’t believe outdoor gatherings are going to have a particularly noticeable impact on our pandemic,” he said.
And as long as people continue to play by the rules, there could be even more glimpses of freedom in the weeks and months ahead.
“There will be more relaxing of restrictions as time goes by, but not today,” said Premier John Horgan.
Until then, masks remain mandatory in indoor public spaces and there are to be no indoor gatherings outside of your own household. For a full list of provincial health guidelines, click here.