B.C. lifting pandemic state of emergency as province gives go-ahead for Step 3 of its restart plan
Masks recommended but no longer mandatory, unlimited indoor and outdoor personal gatherings
The provincial state of emergency which had been in place since March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be lifted on July 1 in British Columbia.
Premier John Horgan made the announcement Tuesday as the province prepares to enter the third phase of its reopening plan on July 1, with daily case counts steadily falling and the province experiencing one of the world's highest vaccination rates.
More than 78 per cent of adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 32 per cent have been fully immunized with two doses.
Tuesday, the province recorded 29 new cases of COVID-19 across B.C. and no new deaths from the disease.
The seven-day rolling average case count has fallen to 58 — its lowest point since August. There are now 876 active cases across B.C., also the lowest number since August.
Hospitalizations have also declined in recent weeks. As of Tuesday, there are 110 patients in hospital with COVID-19, including 34 who are in intensive care.
Tuesday also marked the first news conference since the pandemic began where B.C. journalists were invited to attend in person.
With B.C. now confirmed to enter Step 3 of its restart plan on July 1, recreational travel within Canada will be allowed again, as will indoor and outdoor personal gatherings with no limit on the number of people who can join. Kids will be permitted to have sleepovers with their friends again.
"We welcome Canadians back to B.C. provided you have those two vaccinations," said Horgan.
Residents will be able to attend fairs and festivals, so long as a public health safety plan is in place.
WATCH | Dr. Bonnie Henry urges caution as the province enters Step 3 of its restart plan:
Mask orders come off
Masks will be recommended, but no longer mandatory.
"It is important for us to continue to wear masks in those indoor settings where we're around people we don't know and when we're not fully protected [by vaccines]," said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Henry says there will be no need to provide proof of vaccination. She added that some people will feel comfortable continuing to wear masks and that should be respected.
Workplaces will be allowed to ease certain restrictions as they shift from strict safety plans to communicable disease plans which include protocols like handwashing.
Step 3 also marks increased capacity for outdoor public gatherings where 5,000 attendees, or 50 per cent capacity, will be allowed.
Fairs and festivals will be allowed to return to normal, albeit with communicable disease plans, although many have already announced they would be taking their events online.
Steep case decline
On Monday, Henry presented modelling that showed a steep and sustained decline in B.C.'s caseload. She said she was heartened to see that some pockets of the province were completely free from new cases in the past week.
Henry also noted that deaths from COVID-19 have stayed relatively low even during the punishing third wave of the pandemic, which she said "reflects the ongoing durable protection from immunization."
As of Tuesday, 4,941,795 doses of vaccine have been administered, including 1,368,464 second doses. A total of 78.3 per cent of adults and 77 per cent of those over the age of 12 have now received their first shot, while 31.6 per cent of adults and 29.5 per cent of people older than 12 have received both doses.
British Columbians aged 12 and over who have not yet been immunized can register in three ways:
- Online through the Get Vaccinated portal.
- By calling 1-833-838-2323. Translators are available in 140 languages.
- In person at any Service B.C. location.
The province is aiming to have most people receive their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine roughly eight weeks after their first.
To date, 1,754 people have died of COVID-19 in B.C. out of 147,578 confirmed cases.
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