VANCOUVER -- The next phase of B.C.'s pandemic response could involve giving people the chance to meet their friends or extended family members face-to-face – under the right circumstances.

At her daily virus briefing on Thursday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry hinted that socially deprived British Columbians could have the opportunity to reconnect, possibly by meeting outdoors, provided they do so thoughtfully and in a way that allows them to continue maintaining physical distance from one another.

"We're not going to have large group gatherings together, we're not going to be having indoor parties in this coming summer, but we can look at how we can safely have more contact and more people in our lives," Henry said.

The provincial health officer stressed that people would likely only be able to expand their social circles "slightly," and that individuals would have to weigh their own risks in doing so.

She suggested that people who live with someone vulnerable to a severe COVID-19 infection, such as a cancer patient, might want to keep socializing to a bare minimum in order to reduce the risk of bringing the virus home.

Every new person who is brought into one's "circle" has a "circle" of their own that adds to the risk of transmission.

It will also remain crucially important that people do not leave the house while sick, and continue to maintain good hygiene and regular hand-washing.

Dr. Henry also reiterated that, for the time being, officials still don’t want people socializing in person with anyone they don't live with. That includes meeting people in a park or for a bike ride, even when physical distance is maintained.

She suggested the easing of social restrictions could be part of "the next phase" of B.C.'s response, but did not give a clear timeline. CTV News has reached out to the Ministry of Health for clarification.

Health officials have previously said that the first easing of COVID-19 restrictions could be as early as mid-May, though they only referenced a small handful of measures, such as allowing for elective surgeries to resume.

They are also preparing to let some business reopen, including restaurants that want to offer dine-in service.

Asked whether the province was considering allowing casinos to begin running again, to help bring in revenue, Dr. Henry said they would be "last on (her) list." She noted they are closed environments that seniors and people with underlying illnesses often frequent.

B.C. Premier John Horgan is expected to share more details on the province's re-openings plans next week.