British Columbia

What you need to know about B.C.'s COVID-19 reopening plan

If everything goes as planned and the vaccination rate keeps rising while hospitalizations and case numbers drop, British Columbians could have practically normal social lives as early as September.

4-step plan lays out gradual loosening and lifting of restrictions if positive trends continue

The days of COVID-related social restrictions could be behind us by September if everything goes according to plan. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

On Tuesday, B.C. officials announced an ambitious plan to gradually lift restrictions on daily life, business and travel as the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to recede.

If everything goes as planned and the vaccination rate keeps rising while hospitalizations and case numbers drop, British Columbians could have practically normal social lives as early as September.

The province's restart plan has been set out in four steps, with the first already underway as of May 25.

There are suggested dates given for each of the next three steps, but the exact timing will depend on how well B.C. is performing on getting shots into arms and preventing transmission of the novel coronavirus.

"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," Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry explained in a press release.

At each new step, more restrictions will be loosened or lifted while some others will stay in place.

Here's what we know about how that will look.

Step 1: Beginning May 25

What had to happen for this to be possible?

  • More than 60 per cent of adults have received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Cases and hospitalizations are stable.

What restrictions still apply?

  • No non-essential or recreational travel is allowed between health regions.
  • Face coverings must be worn in indoor public spaces.
  • Businesses and workplaces must have safety protocols in place.
  • Physical distancing is required when outside of your home.
  • Liquor service ends at 10 p.m. PT in bars and restaurants.

What restrictions have loosened?

  • Small indoor social gatherings like dinner parties are allowed again in people's homes, with a maximum of five visitors or one additional household.
  • Outdoor social gatherings can happen with as many as 10 people.
  • Indoor dining can resume at restaurants, with a maximum of six people per table and safety protocols that were in place before indoor dining was halted in March.
  • Up to 10 people are allowed at organized seated indoor gatherings, as long as safety protocols are in place.
  • Up to 50 people are allowed at organized seated outdoor gatherings, with safety protocols in place.
  • Games can resume for outdoor sports, as long as there are no spectators.
  • Low-intensity group fitness classes can resume as well, with safety protocols in place.
  • Reduced capacity in-person indoor faith services are to be allowed in consultation with public health.
Patch May, senior trainer at F45 Training, is pictured in studio in Vancouver on Tuesday, May 25, 2021, the same day health officials announced that indoor low-intensity group fitness classes can resume. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Step 2: June 15 at the earliest

What needs to happen for this to be possible?

  • 65 per cent of adults will have received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Cases and hospitalizations must be declining.

What restrictions will still apply?

  • Face coverings must be worn in indoor public spaces.
  • Businesses and workplaces must have safety protocols in place.
  • Physical distancing is required when outside of your home.

What restrictions will be loosened or lifted?

  • All restrictions on travel within B.C. will be lifted.
  • Liquor services at bars and restaurants will be extended to midnight.
  • Children's playdates can resume.
  • Outdoor social gatherings will be allowed to include as many as 50 people, but indoor personal social gatherings will still be limited to five visitors.
  • Seated indoor organized gatherings will also be permitted with up to 50 people.
  • Movie theatres, banquet halls and live theatres will be able to reopen with limited capacity.
  • Indoor sports games will be allowed.
  • Spectators will be permitted at outdoor games.
  • High intensity fitness classes will resume with reduced capacity and safety plans in place.
A server is pictured bringing food to indoor diners at Yolks restaurant in Vancouver. Restrictions are slowly relaxing on food and drink service in restaurants and bars. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Step 3: July 1 at the earliest

What needs to happen for this to be possible?

  • 70 per cent of adults will have received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Cases must be low and hospitalizations must be declining.

What restrictions will still apply?

  • Most major limits on daily life will be relaxed.
  • New guidelines are expected for personal protective equipment, physical distancing and business protocols.

What restrictions will be loosened or lifted?

  • Mask and face coverings will be recommended rather than required.
  • The provincial state of emergency and public health emergency will be lifted.
  • Personal gatherings will return to normal, whether they're indoors or outdoors.
  • Grocery stores won't require directional arrows in the aisles.
  • Sleepovers will be permitted.
  • Organized gatherings will be allowed to take place with increased capacity and safety plans in place.
  • Fairs and festivals could be approved with safety plans.
  • Nightclubs and casinos will reopen with limited capacity and safety plans.
Big concerts may be possible again in B.C. this fall. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Step 4: Sept. 7 at the earliest

What needs to happen for this to be possible?

  • More than 70 per cent of adults will have received a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Cases and hospitalizations must be low.

What restrictions will still apply?

  • Businesses will operate under new safety plans.

What restrictions will be loosened or lifted?

  • Social contact will be back to normal.
  • Capacity will increase again on organized gatherings, including concerts.
  • Sports can go ahead with no limits on spectators.
  • Offices and other workplaces will be fully reopened.

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