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New safe restart plan introduced in B.C.

The B.C. Government has unveiled its new safe restart plan, with the goal of lifting all COVID-19 restrictions by September 1st at the earliest.

To do this, the Province said it will rely on its vaccination rollout and data relating to case numbers and hospitalization rates.

As of Tuesday, May 25th, the B.C. Government said more than 60% of its adult population has been vaccinated with the first dose, while hospitalization rates steadily decline.

With that, the Province will start to move ahead with caution on a new safe restart plan.

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“British Columbia will reopen with a series of four steps, and it starts by lifting the Circuit Breaker restrictions we’ve had for about six weeks now,” said Premier John Horgan. “It means you’ll be able to enjoy a meal in a restaurant with some friends, it means you’ll be able to have more guests in your home or have a barbecue tonight.”

That said, travel between B.C.’s health regions is still restricted to essential travel only.

B.C’s Restart, the four-step plan to bring the province out of the pandemic, will be a slow and gradual return to normal. The first two steps will keep safety and health protocols such as mask-wearing and physical distancing in place for the time being.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer, said the vaccination program will help bring the province out of the pandemic. She noted that the shots have already made a notable impact on B.C.’s long-term care and assisted living facilities.

“Since we were able to protect people in those communities, outbreaks have gone down. We’ve still had some, but they’ve been milder and they haven’t been as protracted or have affected as many people. This is what has helped us understand that immunization is going to be that will help us get out of the pandemic,” explained Henry.

The province’s four-step plan has been designed based on data from BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and Dr. Henry.

Progress through the steps will be measured by the number of adults who have been vaccinated, COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations and deaths, while taking into account clusters and outbreaks.

The B.C. Government said it has given out approximate dates, but the plan will be guided by data, and will not move forward until public health and the latest available data says it is safe to do so.

“We have been on a long and tiring journey, and now we can start to chart our path forward to brighter days ahead,” said Henry. “To be successful in this next phase of the pandemic, we need to keep COVID-19 low and slow. To do that, we need to be slow and measured in our approach, gradually turning up the dial on how we spend time together – whether that is socializing with family, going to work or visiting friends.”

Below is the approximate timeline the Provincial Government has set out to slowly ease people and businesses out of the pandemic:

  • Step 1 – May 25th:
    • 60% of adult population with Dose 1.
    • COVID-19 cases stable, hospitalizations stable.
    • Maximum of five visitors or one household allowed for indoor personal gatherings.
    • Maximum of 10 people for outdoor personal gatherings.
    • Maximum of 10 people for seated indoor organized gatherings with safety protocols.
    • Maximum of 50 people for seated outdoor organized gatherings with safety protocols.
    • Recreational travel only within travel region (travel restrictions extended).
    • Indoor and outdoor dining for up to six people with safety protocols.
    • Resume outdoor sports with no spectators, low-intensity fitness with safety protocols.
    • Start gradual return to workplaces.
    • Provincewide mask mandate, business safety protocols and physical distancing measures remain in place.
    • Return of indoor in-person faith-based gatherings (reduced capacity) based on consultation with public health.
  • Step 2 – June 15th, at the earliest:
    • 65% of adult population with Dose 1.
    • Cases declining, COVID-19 hospitalizations declining.
    • Maximum of 50 people for outdoor social gatherings.
    • Maximum of 50 people for seated indoor organized gatherings, such as movie theatres, with safety protocols.
    • Consultation process to prepare for larger indoor and outdoor gatherings with safety protocols.
    • No B.C. travel restrictions – check local travel advisories.
    • Indoor sports and high-intensity fitness with safety protocols.
    • Spectators for outdoor sports (50 maximum).
    • Provincewide mask mandate, business safety protocols and physical distancing measures remain in place.
  • Step 3 – July 1st, at the earliest:
    • 70% of adult population with Dose 1.
    • Cases low, COVID-19 hospitalizations declining.
    • Provincial state of emergency and public health emergency lifted.
    • Returning to usual for indoor and outdoor personal gatherings.
    • Increased capacity for indoor and outdoor organized gatherings, with safety plans.
    • Nightclubs and casinos reopen with capacity limits and safety plans.
    • New public health and workplace guidance around personal protective equipment, physical distancing and business protocols.
  • Step 4 – September 1st, at the earliest:
    • More than 70% of adult population with Dose 1.
    • Cases low and stable (contained clusters), COVID-19 hospitalizations low.
    • Returning to normal social contact.
    • Increased capacity at larger organized gatherings.
    • No limits on indoor and outdoor spectators at sports.
    • Businesses operating with new safety plans.

During steps 1 and 2, restaurants, bars, pubs, and fitness centres can return to their existing safety protocols that were in place prior to the circuit breaker restrictions.

Meanwhile, hotels and other accommodations are encouraged to welcome guests from inside their region. The invitation can be extended province-wide in Step 2.

In-class K-12 education will continue under existing safety protocols under Steps 1 and 2. The COVID-19 education steering committee will work with public health officials to update safety guidelines in preparation for the return of classes in the fall.

Other sectors must keep their safety protocols in place for Steps 1 and 2, including at schools and daycares.

Government ministries will meet with industry and labour, along with WorkSafeBC and public health to help develop comprehensive, industry-specific safety plans. First Nations and municipal governments will also be consulted on the plans.

“We are able to begin this restart because of the sacrifice and dedication from so many people and businesses throughout B.C.,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. “As we transition through the restart plan, we will continue to engage with businesses, industry and key stakeholders. I know that the entrepreneurial spirit of B.C.’s business community will again rise to the challenge as we work together to build a brighter and better future with meaningful jobs and a strong, sustainable economy for all.”

More: BC’s Restart: A plan to bring us back together (B.C. Government)

More: B.C. Restart Plan presentation (B.C. Government)

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