COVID-19 disclaimer: As recommended by BC’s provincial health officer, if you choose to take part in recreational activities in public spaces please adhere to coronavirus health safety measures, including proper physical distancing, wearing a mask, and remaining at home if you show symptoms of cold or flu.
On Wednesday afternoon, Premier John Horgan announced that British Columbia was set to move into Phase 3 of its four-phase reopening plan.
The announcement comes one day after Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry shared updated modelling on the COVID-19 pandemic. During the announcement, she said that while “we are increasing our contacts,” for the most part it’s being done in “a safe way.”
Horgan adds that the province has “been careful in this restart plan” while making “progress going forward.”
“Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of British Columbians, and under the guidance of the provincial health officer, we are now entering Phase 3 of our four-phase restart plan,” he said on Wednesday. “As we carefully turn up the dial on our activity, we can now look to travel safely around the province.”
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Phase 3 follows the series of various re-openings that took place across May and early June and is expected to take place until September.
Under “enhanced protocols,” it intends to look at opening and restarting the following sectors:
- 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 a mix of online and in-class (September)
- K-12 education – with only a partial return this school year (September)
Hotels, resorts, and parks
One of the most notable changes is that residents will be allowed to take part in “smart, safe, and respectful travel” within the province.
Many hospitality-related businesses such as hotels, motels, resorts, and lodges will be preparing to welcome guests. They’re likely to implement additional health and safety measures, however, such as adjusted layouts, restricted capacity, and enhanced sanitization protocols.
Overnight camping will also open up with preference being given to BC residents. The provincial government notes, however, that the 2020 season booking window has been reduced to two months in advance of arrival date.
With any kind of travel, health officials have issued the following guidelines for anyone looking to venture within BC:
- 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
- Practising good hygiene, including frequent handwashing and cleaning
Horgan stresses, however, that while travel will be permitted, the virus is still transmitting through the community.
“Although we are going to have a summer that is better than we would have thought a few months ago, this is not a return to normal,” he says.
BC’s film industry
Hollywood North will also be looking to restart with Phase 3, as motion picture and television production are being allowed to resume.
Film crews and production studios will be expected to make changes to increase safety protocols such as reducing the number of workers, limiting visitors on set, and removing open meals amongst staff.
Horgan says that the province has “greenlit the industry” and that “production teams will be looking at how quickly they can move.”
“The producers are going to make their choices about how they’re going to proceed but I would say that compared to Hollywood, Hollywood North is looking pretty good on the health front,” he notes.
“I would suspect certainly after the 14-day quarantine period that they can be shooting at their leisure… again, being mindful of the conditions that are in place.
Horgan added that the film industry plays a critical role in BC and says that he’s “running out of things to watch on Netflix.”
Elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education
Elementary and secondary school students were given the option to return to part-time, in-person schooling at the start of June. The provincial government will be eyeing a full-time return to in-class learning at the start of September but only if it’s safe to do so.
The Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training also says that they’re working with post-secondary institutions in BC to develop a plan for the 2020-21 academic school year.
Most institutions, however, are opting to continue with mostly online classes, with in-class activity being reserved for education and training that requires hands-on, yet physically distant schooling.
With files from Eric Zimmer.