Select businesses are reopening and social circles are being carefully expanded as British Columbia enters Phase 2 of its reopening plan on Tuesday.
The focus moving forward is the restoration of health services, rescheduling elective surgeries, and permitting services such as dentistry, physiotherapy, registered massage therapy, chiropractors, physical therapy, speech therapy, and other similar fields.
These services are being carefully opened under enhanced protocols along with the following areas of the retail sector:
- Hair salons/barbers/other personal service establishments
- In-person counselling
- Restaurants, cafes, pubs – with sufficient distancing measures
- Museums, art galleries, libraries
- Office-based worksites
- Parks, beaches, and outdoor spaces
- Transit services
British Columbians are encouraged to slowly extend social contact to family and a small group of friends. Health authorities stress, however, that these gatherings should be limited to groups between two to six people.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says that entering the new phase can still bring challenges to people as they once again adjust to a new normal.
“We are still learning the new ways of safe social interaction and doing things that we’ve never had to do before, and that in itself can create anxiety and concern,” she told reporters on Monday.
“I know that even me, trying it out yesterday, had some challenges. I had a small number of friends over and we sat outside at an appropriate distance from each other. But it was a bit awkward and strange and a little bit anxiety-provoking, not having socialized for several months.”
Henry maintains that patience and compassion remain essential in the coming months and says that even though restrictions are being lifted, the risk of infection is still present.
“With the easing of restrictions and the added social interaction, the potential for a flare-up and new cases does go up,” she said. “[Public health officials] will be watching very carefully, and we will ensure that we have the testing, the contact tracing, and the ability to manage any new cases that we see.”
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Health Minister Adrian Dix added that contact for British Columbians is increasing to approximately 60%, nearly double what it was since the pandemic began. He echoed Henry’s sentiments, saying that proper hygiene and physical distancing are more important than ever.
“Throughout the summer and well beyond, physical distance remains our constant companion,” he said.
“Physical distance along with washing our hands, coughing and sneezing into our sleeves, staying home if we are sick, respecting and supporting engineered and administrative safeguards, and using non-medical masks when appropriate will protect us … and those that we love.”
Engineered and administrative safeguards refer to tools or practices that can be used to mitigate the risk of infection. In addition to physical distancing, they include using physical barriers, increased ventilation, reduced capacities, and personal protective equipment such as non-medical masks.
“Our well-being and our future is still in our hands and we must continue to watch them,” said Henry. “We must continue to be kind and to be calm and to be safe.”