Premier John Horgan has announced the province is moving to Phase 3 of its restart plan, which allows for more travel in the province.
The phase, which is the third of four phases, also allows hotels, motels, spas, resorts, hostels and RV parks to resume operating.
Premier John Horgan said Wednesday the province has been successful at flattening the curve on COVID-19, which means it can ease more health restrictions and gradually move into the third phase of its reopening plan.
He said the province is able to open more industries, institutions and recreation areas, but gatherings of people must remain at 50 people or less.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said recent modelling data shows if B.C. residents keep their current level of contact with other people, then COVID-19 infection rates can be held in check.
“We would not be making these recommendations if we were not confident … having said that, this does not mean we are going back to a pre-COVID normal,” she said.
Horgan said like other activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, summer holidays and travel will be different this year.
“As we carefully turn up the dial on our activity, we can now look to travel safely around the province. But as we hit the open roads this summer, we must remember we are not leaving COVID-19 behind, and we need to continue to do our part to bend the curve and protect the progress we’ve made,” Horgan said.
Horgan said people have done the hard work of keeping the virus at bay.
“I commend British Columbians because it’s their hard work that got us here based on the guidance that we’ve received from public health. And the hard work of British Columbians, I think, deserves a bit of time at the lake or on the beach.”
The provincial health officer has laid out travel guidelines for everyone travelling to and within B.C.:
- pre-trip planning and research on available resources at arriving destination;
- respecting any local travel advisories to isolated and remote communities;
- no travelling for anyone who is sick, and if symptoms develop while travelling – self isolate immediately and contact 811 for guidance and testing;
- practising safe physical distancing of two metres at all times;
- spending time in small groups and open spaces; and
- practising good hygiene, including frequent handwashing and cleaning.
“Like other activities during our COVID-19 pandemic, summer holidays and travel will be different this year,” Horgan said.
“We are asking British Columbians to be respectful of the communities you travel to and do your research before you leave. We will help people get the tools and information they need to navigate this new normal safely.”
Most of the businesses listed in Phase 3 of B.C.’s Restart Plan now have the guidance they need to safely begin to open, the province said.
WorkSafeBC, public health officials and industry representatives have developed guidelines for hotels and resorts, parks, the film industry and select entertainment, like movie theatres, and businesses in these sectors have already begun to open with COVID-19 safety plans in place.
The government has also formally extended the provincial state of emergency, allowing Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, to continue to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act to support the Province’s COVID-19 pandemic response.
The state of emergency is extended through the end of the day on July 7.
“We’re extending the provincial state of emergency, while we work to keep the economy moving and provide more opportunities for B.C. businesses to welcome our communities back,” Farnworth said.
“We’ve also introduced legislation that will allow us to put longer-term solutions in place, so we can continue to provide the support British Columbians need to get through this crisis.”
On Monday, June 22, 2020, the provincial government introduced the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, legislation to allow provisions created for citizens and businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to continue as needed after the provincial state of emergency ends.
You can watch Premier John Horgan and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s announcement below:
Throughout Phase Two, the province has been encouraging people to stay close to home in order to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. With the move to Phase Three, the province will be giving the thumbs up to travel within British Columbia. Although travel hasn’t been banned, health officials had continued to discourage non-essential trips.
“If you’re considering travelling to other parts of the province, we need to be respectful. Take the same precautions that we take at home,” she said, adding that people should bring groceries with them if heading to a more remote community,” Dr. Henry said during a press conference earlier this week.
As British Columbians returned to offices, shops, restaurants and playgrounds in Phase 2, there was an uptick in cases. That makes the provincial health officer slightly nervous, as the threshold for increasing our social circles is tight and contact tracing is still a core piece of British Columbia’s strategy.
Dr. Henry said Tuesday that contact rates are at about 65 per cent of normal, up from 30 per cent, but it’s all the more important to continue limiting gatherings to 50 people to allow for quick contact tracing if the illness spreads.
She says up to 97 per cent of contacts have been found within a few days after a case is identified.
Henry cautioned that jumping to an 80 per cent rate of normal contacts would result in a dramatic increase in cases before a vaccine is available.
Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix will release B.C.’s latest COVID-19 numbers in a statement Wednesday.
With files from CBC and The Canadian Press