The province has unveiled a four-step provincial restart plan, which will rely heavily on more people getting vaccinated and fewer COVID-19 infections.
Restrictions imposed in April under the ‘circuit-breaker’ plan are lifted as of today and more restrictions will be lifted over the next few weeks and months.
“British Columbians have sacrificed so much over the last 15 months to help keep people and our communities safe,” said Premier John Horgan, in a news release. “We have made tremendous strides with our vaccination program, and we are now in a position where we can move forward with a plan to slowly bring us back together. As we have done throughout this pandemic, we will be closely following the guidance of public health and supporting people and businesses as we take the next steps in putting this pandemic behind us.”
The plan will be a slow and gradual return to a more normal life, with safety and health protocols such as mask wearing and physical distancing remaining in place and mandatory during the initial two steps of the plan.
The four-step plan was designed based on data and guidance from the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer (PHO). Progressing through the steps will be measured by the number of adults vaccinated, COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations and deaths, taking into account clusters and outbreaks. While there are approximate dates, the plan will be guided by data, not dates, and will not proceed to the next step until it is safe to do so based on guidance from public health and the latest available data.
“We have been on a long and tiring journey, and now we can start to chart our path forward to brighter days ahead,” Henry said. “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.”
The step-by-step plan will follow approximate timelines and will ease people and businesses slowly out of the pandemic.
The four steps are:
Step 1: May 25
- 60 per cent 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 (games) with no spectators, low-intensity fitness with safety protocols
- Start gradual return to workplaces
- Province-wide 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: Mid-June (June 15 – earliest date)
- 65 per cent 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 (banquet halls, movie theatres, live theatre) 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 (games) 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: Early July (July 1 – earliest date)
- 70 per cent 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: Early September (Sept. 7 – earliest date)
- More than 70 per cent 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
For Step 1 and Step 2, restaurants, bars and pubs, as well as indoor fitness facilities, are to return to the existing safety protocols that were in place prior to the circuit breaker restrictions. For other sectors, existing safety protocols remain in place for Step 1 and Step 2, including existing safety protocols at schools and daycares. In Step 1, hotels and other accommodation providers are encouraged to welcome guests from inside their region. In Step 2, the invitation can be extended to guests from throughout the province.
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.
All updated workplace safety plans should be ready by July 1 prior to shifting into Step 3. These plans will be based on updated sector guidelines.
Roundtables led by ministries across government will engage with industry and labour, along with WorkSafeBC and public health, to help develop comprehensive updated industry-specific safety plans, as well as engage with First Nations and municipal governments.
In-class K-12 education will continue to operate under existing safety protocols for steps 1 and 2. In preparation for the return to classes in the fall, the COVID-19 education steering committee will work with public health officials to update safety guidelines.
The province is formally extending the provincial state of emergency through the end of the day on June 8, 2021, allowing health and emergency management officials to continue to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act to support the Province’s COVID-19 pandemic response. The original declaration was made on March 18, 2020, the day after Henry declared a public health emergency, and can be extended for periods of up to 14 days at a time.
Provincial travel restrictions will continue to be enforced until Step 2 of the four-step plan.