B.C. to allow ‘careful’ travel within province as it eases more COVID-19 restrictions under Phase 3

British Columbia is further easing restrictions set in place to control COVID-19, meaning residents will be allowed to travel within the province as hotels, motels, resorts, spas, and RV parks look to reopen.

Premier John Horgan announced Wednesday that B.C. will gradually be moving into Phase 3 of its restart plan, after the province managed to increase activity without seeing a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

Phase 3 of B.C.’s restart plan also means residents can travel within the province “safely and respectfully.” 

“I think this can be an exciting summer for all of us, but be mindful: this is not regular programming,” Horgan said Wednesday.

Horgan said it is critical British Columbians continue with foundational health guidelines, which have helped with the province’s success in flattening its curve since March: physical distancing, wearing a mask when distancing is not possible, washing hands and staying home if sick. Gatherings with more than 50 people are still banned.

“This is not the summer to do the big family gathering at the cottage,” the premier said.

Entertainment venues like movie theatres can reopen under Phase 3, as can overnight camping in parks. Television productions can also start up again.

B.C. found ‘balance’ to raise activity, but not case count: Henry

The reopening comes one day after the release of new modelling numbers updating the status of COVID-19 infections in B.C. Those numbers showed recent person-to-person contact rates in the province were at 65 per cent of normal, up from 30 per cent at the pandemic’s peak.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the data showed B.C. can keep infection rates in check if residents stay at their current level of contact with other people.

Henry said the province can keep infection rates in check if residents stay at their current level of contact with other people. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

“We found a balance of increasing our contacts and doing it in a way that’s safe … we need to keep that balance for the coming months, until we have an effective vaccine or a treatment,” she said.

“We’ve been doing it over the last few months and we’ve been doing it well in British Columbia ⁠— we need to keep that up.”

Henry warned the province could see a “rapid rebound” in the number of cases if it reopened too quickly, or if residents get complacent.

Still, Henry said she believes British Columbians can enjoy their summer safely, acknowledging people need social interactions to stay emotionally healthy.

“We would not be making these recommendations if we were not confident,” she said.

Last week, Henry said she was pleased with the results of B.C.’s reopening for schools and some businesses, including restaurants, hair salons, dentist offices and physiotherapy clinics. Schools have been open on reduced schedules for students since June 1 and the salons, restaurants and clinics reopened on May 19.

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