On July 1, British Columbia will officially enter Step 3 of its COVID-19 restart plan.
“It is indeed a great announcement that we are ready to bring us back together,” Dr Bonnie Henry said on Tuesday afternoon. “We are making very encouraging, positive progress in our COVID-19 pandemic response here in BC.”
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BC will not enter Step 4 of its restart plan until September 7 at the earliest.
Here’s everything you need to know as the province enters Step 3:
The longest provincial State of Emergency in BC history will end
As the province moves to Step 3 of its COVID-19 restart plan, it will end the longest provincial State of Emergency in BC’s history. Originally announced on March 18, 2020, it has been in effect for 469 days.
The Public Health Emergency, however, will remain in effect, with reduced measures.
One of the biggest changes in Step 3 is that BC will be lifting its health order calling for the mandatory use of masks in retail and indoor public spaces. The measure was introduced in November 2020 amid a rise of COVID-19 cases.
Henry stresses, however, that mask wearing is still important and will be recommended for BC residents — especially those who are not fully immunized.
“Mask wearing will be recommended in all indoor public spaces for all people 12 and over who are not yet fully immunized,” she explained during a press conference.
“That means it is important for us to continue to wear masks in those indoor settings when we’re around people that we don’t know and where we have not yet been fully protected.”
Indoor and outdoor personal gatherings
The orders around personal gatherings will be lifted. This includes gatherings with friends or families inside of a home or at a vacation rental.
“We know that these are situations where these are people that we know,” Henry says. “We are removing the order because we know the risk, we know the vaccination status. We can invite people into our home based on our risk and the risk of those around us in our friends and family.”
She adds that “it is up to us” to decide who is in our home now.
Indoor and outdoor organized gatherings
Indoor organized gatherings will be permitted for up to 50 people or up to 50% capacity of the venue, whichever is larger. The maximum capacity for outdoor gatherings will be increased to 5,000 or up to 50% of capacity, again, whichever is greater.
This means that events such as indoor weddings, ceremonies, and events may resume, as well as fairs, festivals, and trade shows — although they will need a health and safety plan.
Additionally, the province will be removing all restrictions surrounding indoor and outdoor religious worship services.
Casinos and nightclubs can open their doors again as of July 1. Casinos have been closed since March 2020, and nightclubs since September 2020.
For casinos, while they’ll be ready to open their doors on Canada Day, it will be at a limited capacity with health protocols in place. This means that 50% of gaming stations will be permitted to be open. Barriers and masks are recommended but not required.
The situation at nightclubs is similar to casinos, but patrons will be slightly more limited.
For starters, you will be allowed to sit at a table of up to a group of 10 people maximum. Socializing between tables will not be permitted, and tables have to be two metres apart. Most important, for anyone looking forward to getting back to the club, dancing will still not be permitted, similar to bars and restaurants.
Returning to Canada-wide recreational travel
Health officials say that BC is ready to welcome visitors from other provinces, although it’s preferable that they be vaccinated.
“The guidelines will be what we’ve said all along,” Henry says. “Be respectful of those that you’re visiting and recognize that you’re bringing risk with you.”
Henry adds that as more people come into British Columbia, there’s a chance that travellers will come with the virus, including different strains and variants.
“Plan ahead. Do a little bit of research before you arrive at your destination and respect those local travel advisories. Not every community has received two doses of vaccine for all of their members yet.”
Based on BC’s COVID-19 restart plan, the advisory for British Columbians regarding inter-provincial travel will ease during Step 4.
Liquor service will return to normal hours and group limits can be removed for both indoor and outdoor dining, although no socializing will be permitted between tables.
Starting July 1, diners will no longer be limited to just six people per table when eating and drinking around the province, but please note that table limits will ultimately be determined by venues individually.
With files from Amir Ali and Hanna McLean