Recreational travel within B.C. allowed again as province's restart plan moves ahead
Gathering outdoors with up to 50 people also to be permitted as province moves to Step 2
Recreational travel within the province and outdoor gatherings with up to 50 people will soon be allowed in B.C. as it moves ahead to the next step of its reopening plan.
Officials announced Step 2 will begin Tuesday, as hoped, since case counts and hospitalizations have steadily dropped in recent weeks while vaccinations rose.
Under Step 2, the following will be allowed:
- Recreational travel across B.C.
- Outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people.
- Organized indoor gatherings of up to 50 people, in places like movie theatres or banquet halls.
- Indoor team sports and fitness classes.
- Indoor faith gatherings with up to 50 people, or 10 per cent of the building's total capacity.
- Alcohol service at restaurants, bars and pubs until midnight.
Masks and physical distancing are still mandatory. Personal indoor gatherings must remain small: just one additional household or five other people.
People who don't live in B.C. are still asked to avoid travelling to the province.
"My advice to non-British Columbians: If you don't have business here that's essential … then please stay where you are," said Premier John Horgan.
WATCH: Premier John Horgan and Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about B.C.'s gradual reopening
Vaccination rates exceeded threshold needed for Step 2
Horgan, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and three cabinet ministers held a news conference Monday to announce the next steps in B.C.'s plan to safely restart the province.
The four-step reopening plan released last month said B.C. could move to Step 2 on June 15 if case counts and hospitalizations dropped, and if 65 per cent of eligible adults had received at least one dose of vaccine.
Henry said Monday those tests had been "more than met."
As of Sunday, the rolling averages for cases and hospitalizations were down 56 per cent and 46 per cent, respectively. Vaccination rates were also well past the threshold, with more than three-quarters of adults having had one dose.
"We continue to make great strides in B.C. and I continue to be optimistic about great days ahead ... this will be our summer of hope and healing from this pandemic," said Henry.
Businesses and tourism locales across the province had been carefully preparing for visitors to return in hopes Step 2 would go ahead. Within an hour of the announcement Monday, BC Ferries' website had crashed due to a high volume of people booking travel.
Reopening might slow, but backtracking unlikely: Henry
Plans to reopen in other parts of Canada as well as other countries around the world have been hampered by outbreaks. Yukon has continued to see outbreaks in unvaccinated teens, despite having an adult vaccination rate of 79 per cent. The United Kingdom on Monday delayed its reopening by four weeks after a spike in cases of the Delta variant.
Henry said B.C. will likely see some increase in cases as its reopening progresses, but said the goal is to keep case counts at a level where they can be managed by public health.
"We know a lot about this virus. We don't know everything, but we can look at what's happening. We look at the rates of immunization in different age groups, where we see transmission, the things that we put in place to make a difference for transmission," she said Monday.
"I don't expect, with what we know now, we'll have to go back. But we may need to slow going forward, depending on what happens and this next couple of weeks will be very key for that."
B.C.'s reopening efforts began last month with relaxed restrictions on gatherings, sports events, and both indoor and outdoor dining. Step 3 is set to begin July 1, if case counts and vaccination rates continue trending in the right direction.
The entire four-step plan could see virtually all public health restrictions lifted by Sept. 7. Residents would be allowed to attend live concerts, watch indoor sports events and leave their masks off.
The four steps of B.C.'s restart plan, as outlined by the province on May 25:
With files from The Canadian Press