By Laura Keil

BC’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Premier John Horgan announced a 4-part re-start plan to re-open BC today, lifting the heavy restrictions that were in place during BC’s 3rd wave of COVID-19.

Thanks to falling case rates, stable hospitalization counts and with 60 per cent of the population immunized, Henry said the first step begins today May 25th.

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 with indoor dining once again permitted. 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. In-class K-12 education will continue to operate under existing safety protocols for steps 1 and 2.

One restriction that’s not being lifted is travel across B.C.’s three health zones. That travel ban will remain in place until at least June 15, when it’s expected to be lifted as part of Step 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 four steps are:

Step 1: May 25
* Maximum of five visitors or one household allowed for indoor personal gathering

* Return to indoor dining protocols prior to circuit-breaker restrictions

* 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 at a table 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)

Assuming that 65% of adult population with Dose 1, with COVID-19cases and 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)

Assuming that 70% of adult population with Dose 1, Cases low, and 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)

Assuming that more than 70% of adult population has Dose 1 and cases are low and stable (contained clusters), and COVID-19 hospitalizations are low:

* Return 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