B.C. enters Phase 3 of COVID-19 restart plan, allowing non-essential travel
VANCOUVER -- British Columbia is gradually entering Phase 3 of its COVID-19 restart plan, which means non-essential travel is now allowed throughout the province.
Premier John Horgan made the announcement Wednesday during his weekly briefing in Victoria.
"While the dangers and risks of COVID-19 have not passed, British Columbians are more confident and we're acting in a way that will allow us to take that next step," Horgan said.
The province has also announced it is extending its state of emergency for an additional two weeks.
The premier said moving into the next step of the province's four-phase plan is "appropriate" thanks to the hard work of B.C. residents following the guidance of the provincial health officer.
Horgan emphasized this will not be a return to normal and described the upcoming summer as being "extraordinary."
"I think this can be an exciting summer for all of us, but be mindful that this is not regular programming," he said.
There are some communities that may not be ready to welcome visitors, he added, and people need to be mindful of their actions during their travels.
The province has also released guidelines for travelling within B.C., which include respecting any local travel advisories to remote or isolated communities, obeying proper physical distancing of two metres, and pre-planning and researching available resources at their destinations.
The province moved into Phase 2 of its recovery plan in mid-May, which allowed many businesses that were ordered to close to reopen with enhanced safety measures.
Dr. Bonnie Henry has repeatedly said B.C. would only move into this latest phase if case numbers remained low in spite of some restrictions being lifted.
She added that these decisions are considered very carefully, and people are at the point where they "need social interaction."
"We would not be making these recommendations if we weren't confident that we had put in place the measures that we need to do," she said. "Having said that, it does not mean that this goes back to a pre-COVID normal. We are in a very unique and unusual time. And this is going to be a different summer."
Guidelines have also been developed by WorkSafeBC, industry representatives and public health for the film industry, movie theatres, resorts and hotels, to allow them to reopen safely.
"Many businesses in these sectors have already started opening with COVID-19 safety plans in place," the premier said.
When it comes to the film industry, Horgan said the province has exceptional talent behind the camera, but added the "big issue" for many B.C. productions is the on-camera talent coming into the province. He added that the province nor the federal government, which controls the border, has any intention of waiving the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
"Compared to Hollywood, Hollywood North is looking pretty good on the health front," he said. "We do have extraordinary talent here, unprecedented vistas and scenery, as well as studio capacity to meet the needs of many, many productions."
Horgan and Henry both emphasized that this is not the summer for large family reunions, as the ban on gatherings of 50 people or more is still in place.
The premier added that British Columbians have shown "exemplary" behaviour over the last 100 days and has seen the best results dealing with the virus among the country's largest provinces.
"When I look to the south, I see chaos. I see exponential increases in case loads in states that are here on the west coast, as well as those inland," he said. "I'm confident British Columbians are prepared and ready to act responsibly."
Watch an American Sign Language translation of the news conference on the provincial government's YouTube page.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Alyse Kotyk