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B.C. begins four-step Restart from COVID-19 pandemic

In March and April 2021, B.C. was hit by a third wave of COVID-19 infections.

But something was also about to change as Britisih Columbians registered for vaccination in record numbers between April and May.

By May 24, around 60 percent of people aged 18 and over have received a first dose of the vaccines.

B.C. was ready to restart.

And so on the next day, May 25, the provincial government unveiled B.C.’s Restart plan.

BC’s Restart is a four-step plan to bring the province back together.

Starting May 25, the province began gradually restarting important social connections, businesses and activities.

“British Columbians have sacrificed so much over the last 15 months to help keep people and our communities safe,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan.

“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,” the premier said. “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.”

B.C.’s Restart 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 B.C. 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,” Henry said. “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% 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

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: Mid-June (June 15 – earliest date)

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 (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% 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% 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.

“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,” Kahlon said. “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.”

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.



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