Earlier this week, the BC government unveiled its newest COVID-19 restart plan, which will see the province expand social and physical interactions and open up different sectors of the economy.
In order to ensure that BC’s restart is “slow and gradual,” the extensive plan is broken down into four steps. The province will attempt to move through steps every few weeks, although it will mostly be based on the level of provincial immunization, COVID-19 case counts, and hospitalizations.
Each step will see different aspects of everyday life brought back to the province, such as indoor fitness classes, recreational sports, movie theatres, and even nightclubs and casinos.
But there’s a lot to unpack, so here’s everything you need to know about the COVID-19 restart plan:
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How and when BC will move through each step
The provincial government has laid out approximate dates for when they will attempt to enter each step of the restart plan. Step 1 began immediately after the restart plan was unveiled, Step 2 is targeted for mid-June (June 15), Step 3 is targeted for early July (July 1) and Step 4 is targeted for early September (September 7).
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stresses, however, that officials will be looking at the data, rather than strictly following dates.
“Our approach, like last year’s restart, is focused on protecting people and getting safely back to a more normal life,” she explained during a press conference. “We’ll be monitoring the data and we’ll be giving dates, but this will be based on the data, not the dates.”
Each step has a target amount of vaccinations for BC’s adult population. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations must also be declining or low, and public health officials must be able to contact, trace, and manage any cases or outbreaks that occur.
“This is a minimal level that we feel, in public health, that it’s safe for us to remove some restrictions and to monitor over time.”
As of earlier this week, restrictions in BC were updated to allow for indoor and outdoor dining for up to six people. Restaurants and other establishments will need to keep using safety protocols, but these individuals do not need to be from the same household. Liquor services have also been extended to 10 pm.
This means you can safely meet up with friends for a meal again.
When the province enters Step 2, health officials will look to extend liquor service to midnight. They’ll also be doing sector consultations on the next steps of easing restrictions. By Step 3, the province is targeting indoor and outdoor dining with no group limit.
The restrictions surrounding gatherings have also been updated as part of Step 1 of the restart plan. Effective immediately, indoor personal gatherings can include a maximum of five visitors or one additional household. The limitation of 10 people for outdoor personal gatherings, however, will remain in place.
Seated indoor organized gatherings are now permitted with a maximum of 10 people and seated outdoor gatherings can take place with up to 50 people. Both of these gatherings will require safety plans.
By mid-June, the province will look to expand and allow a maximum of 50 people for both outdoor social gatherings and seated indoor organized gatherings. A consultation process will also begin for larger indoor and outdoor gatherings with safety protocols.
Mid-July could see a return to “usual” for indoor and outdoor personal gatherings and increased capacity, with safety plans, for everything else. By September, BC hopes for a full return to “normal” social contact with increased capacity at larger organized events, and no limits on indoor or outdoor spectators at sporting events.
The provincial travel restrictions that are currently in place will remain for now, although recreational travel within one’s health region is permitted.
In mid-June, the province hopes to lift inter-provincial travel restrictions — although travellers will still be advised to check local travel advisories. During Step 3, BC hopes to allow people and families to host out-of-province visitors and, in early September, recreational travel across the country.
Starting May 25, low-intensity indoor fitness classes that were suspended during BC’s circuit breaker will be allowed to return. This includes activities such as yoga or Pilates classes, and they’ll return with limited capacity. In mid-June, high-intensity fitness classes are also slated to return.
Outdoor sports games and practices for all ages are currently allowed, although spectators are not permitted and activity must remain local. Indoor team sports and practices for all ages are targeted to resume in mid-June.
BC is aiming to increase the capacity of indoor seated environments during Step 2 of the restart plan.
“Once we get to step 2 in June, we’ll be increasing the number of people who can be in indoor seated environments,” Henry explained. “This is when we expect to see things like theatres and movie houses being open again to allow people to safely, with a safety plan, come together and watch a movie.”
Ravi Khalon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery, and Innovation, added that they’ll be aiming to reopen banquet halls around the same time, with limited capacity and safety plans in place.
Casinos and nightclubs
The province will be looking to open businesses such as nightclubs and casinos during Step 3 of the restart plan, which is targeted for early July. They will need to reopen with capacity limits and safety plans.
Mask usage and other safety measures
According to the province, masks will remain mandatory until at least July 1, at which point officials say they will change the guidance to “recommended,” in Step 3 of the provincial restart plan.
This guidance will remain in place until September 7, at which point masks will be a “personal choice,” officials said.
Prior to steps 3 and 4, sector associations will work with public health and WorkSafeBC to
update sector guidelines to meet updated public health guidance.
With files from Hanna McLean and Eric Zimmer