B.C. premier says 'circuit breaker' ending Tuesday, as health officials temper expectations
VANCOUVER -- B.C.'s COVID-19 "circuit breaker" that was introduced back in March is ending next week, according to Premier John Horgan, but health officials have stressed that some pandemic restrictions will remain in place.
Horgan was blunt when asked Thursday what British Columbians can expect to hear when the government unveils its restart plan after the coming long weekend: "They can expect on Tuesday that the circuit breaker will be over, and a road map will be laid out for all British Columbians to see."
The circuit breaker measures, which came into effect on March 29, include the province's bans on indoor dining and indoor group fitness activities. They also put B.C.'s plan to resume some in-person religious services under limited circumstances on pause.
Horgan was clear that the public health order that made those possible is being "lifted at midnight on Monday."
Yet for those whose businesses are closed under the measures, it’s unclear what the end of the circuit breaker means.
“He seems to be indicating that we’re not going to find out what’s happening until the next morning, so indoor dining may be legal for an hour,” said Jeff Guignard with the Association of Beverage Licensees.
Many bars and lounges would need time to purchase goods or schedule staff to prepare for relaxed restrictions, Guignard added.
“I don’t think anyone in British Columbia can answer with any certainty whether or not we are restoring indoor dining next week," he said. "After a press conference where you hope to get some clarity on that, that’s frustrating."
The March circuit breaker notably did not include other restrictions introduced back in November, including the ongoing ban on household gatherings of any size. It's unclear whether any of those will be amended, or whether some of the circuit breaker measures might be re-introduced in another form as part of a new order.
Asked about the premier's comments, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry sought to temper expectations about what will and won't be lifted next week.
"Nothing is going to be back to 100 per cent on Tuesday. It's not going to be a light switch, it's going to be a dimmer switch," Henry said. "It's going to be slowly but surely moving towards the light."
Both the officials stressed that none of the restrictions are being lifted before the weekend, and that it's important for the public to continue following the rules to ensure COVID-19 cases continue to decrease in the province.
"We're all excited about a positive summer and a hopeful fall but we've got to get there," Horgan said.
"That means that adhering to the restrictions that are in place ... I'm confident that British Columbians can make this modest sacrifice for one more long weekend."
"Now is not the time to let up as we're doing so well and getting so far ahead," Henry added. "We all need to stay local, stay small and continue to use all of our layers of protection."
B.C. has recorded an average of 449 COVID-19 cases per day over the last week, which is less than half the rolling seven-day average of 1,130 recorded at the height of the province's third wave back in April.
And the 357 cases announced on Thursday represents the lowest single-day increase recorded in B.C. since mid-February.
Henry noted that progress can quickly be erased, however.
"We are seeing things go in the right direction, but we also know that we have learned in the last 18 months that things can change quickly," she said. "We cannot waste all of the sacrifices that we have done in this last six weeks in this circuit breaker."
"We have learned in the last 18 months that things can change quickly," she said. "We cannot waste all of the sacrifices that we have done."