British Columbia is taking its first tentative steps back to pre-pandemic life as of Tuesday, announcing a four-step reopening plan that could see people socializing normally again by September if case counts and hospitalizations decline.
The four steps are a roadmap through the spring and summer, outlining a gradual return to normal over the next four months.
As of Tuesday, residents can start dining indoors, hitting the gym for low-intensity workouts, resuming outdoor sports games and holding faith-based gatherings in person — though all of those activities still have to happen on a smaller scale with safety protocols in place.
Masks and physical distancing measures remain mandatory. Recreational travel is allowed, but still only within the three regional health zones.
In all, the following is allowed as of Tuesday under Step 1 of B.C.’s Restart Plan:
- Up to five visitors for a personal indoor gathering.
- Up to 10 visitors for either a personal outdoor gathering or seated, indoor organized gatherings.
- Up to 50 people for seated outdoor organized gatherings.
- Indoor dining with up to six people; no mingling with other tables allowed.
- Outdoor sports games with no spectators.
- Indoor, in-person faith-based gatherings at a reduced capacity based on consultation with public health.
(An informal gathering is something like a small dinner party, while a “seated, organized” gathering is something like an intimate wedding ceremony.)
The restart plan is contingent on case counts dropping, hospitalizations declining and 70 per cent of the population getting vaccinated.
If all of those criteria are met, all travel restrictions within B.C. could be lifted by June 15. Travelling within Canada could be acceptable by July 1.
Under the province’s plan, virtually all public health orders could be removed as early as Sept. 7. Masks would be a “personal choice” and events and socializing would happen as they did before the pandemic.
Daily case counts and active case counts in B.C. have come down by 61 and 55 per cent, respectively, since peaking last month. Hospitalizations are also down 38 per cent. Roughly 60 per cent of British Columbians over 18 now have at least one dose of vaccine.
The news also comes 483 days after B.C. announced it had confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus.
As of Monday, the province’s rolling average of cases and active caseload were at their lowest points in six months.
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