BC officially announces plan to reopen province

May 6 2020, 3:16 pm

The BC government has officially announced its timeline to reopen sectors throughout the province that have been closed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“British Columbians have made enormous sacrifices so far, and it’s thanks to them that we’re able to begin to lift some restrictions,” said BC Premier John Horgan. “We’ll allow activities to resume as the evidence and experts tell us it is appropriate to do so.”

By moving “carefully and deliberately,” he added, “we will help British Columbians get to a ‘new normal,’ where more of our social and economic life can resume.”

In what has been dubbed “BC Restart Plan,” the province said it will work closely with public health officials, businesses and labour organizations to lift restrictions in phases, gradually allowing for more social and economic activity, while closely monitoring health information to minimize the risk to the public.

On Wednesday, the province laid out its official plan along with a series of steps that it will begin taking starting this month.

It noted that restarting economic activity “will look different in BC than in other jurisdictions, because only a small number of sectors in the province were closed by public health order.”

The province said that to help businesses and other organizations get back on their feet, “we need workplace practices that ensure British Columbians feel safe, whether they are returning to work, or going out as a customer.”

In addition, “employers will need to engage with their employees to find the right solutions and consider the concerns and needs of their customers.”

The province also noted that WorkSafeBC will “work with industry associations to ensure the direction and guidance they provide to their members meets the requirements set out by the Provincial Health Officer.”

Mid-May onwards

BC said that its focus for the middle of this month onwards will be the restoration of health services, re-scheduling Elective Surgery, medically related services, dentistry, Physiotherapy, Registered Massage Therapy, Chiropractors,Physical therapy, speech therapy and similar fields, all under what the province said will be “enhanced protocols.”

Under these protocols, the province is also looking at the reopening of the retail sector, which they said includes the following:

  • Hair salons/barbers/other personal service establishments
  • In-person counselling
  • Restaurants, cafes, pubs – with sufficient distancing measures
  • Museums, art galleries, libraries
  • Office-based worksites
  • Recreation/sports
  • Parks, beaches, and outdoor spaces
  • Transit services
  • Childcare

June to September

Following the various re-openings in May, the province said that between June and September, and also under “enhanced protocols,” it intends to look at opening and restarting the following:

  • Hotels and resorts (June)
  • Parks – broader reopening, including some overnight camping (June)
  • Film industry – beginning with domestic productions (June/July)
  • Select entertainment – movies and symphony, but not large concerts (July)
  • Post-secondary education – with mix of online and in-class (September)
  • K-12 education – with only a partial return this school year (September)

Further challenges

Even with these timelines in place, the province admitted that further challenges await when it comes to getting everything fully reopened. This includes the timing of a safe restart of night clubs, casinos, and bars.

These reopenings depend on a wide vaccination, “community” immunity, or broad successful treatments.

“Until these things happen, BC won’t be hosting rock concerts or conventions,” said Horgan.

BC’s ban on gatherings of over 50 people is still in effect, meaning events like conventions, live-audience professional sports, and concerts are prohibited.

“As with other sectors, industry associations will be expected to develop safe operations plans, for review, that are in keeping with Public Health and Safety Guidelines, as well as WorkSafeBC,” the province said in its plan.

A plan for the new normal “must remain nimble enough to allow us to fine- tune our interventions quickly enough to stay ahead of the outbreak,” the province added. “This can include an acceptable steady state of approximately 60% of the “old normal social interaction.”

Overall, the goal is “to maintain a steady go- forward state and if needed a series of moderate ‘lift and suppress’ cycles, where restrictions are relaxed and then reapplied in ways that can keep the pandemic under control at an acceptable economic and social cost.”