COVID-19 recovery: Here are the rules that will be lifted under Step 2 of B.C.'s restart plan
VANCOUVER -- With weekly COVID-19 case averages still falling in B.C. and vaccination rates rising, residents in the province might be wondering when more restrictions will lift.
The very earliest restrictions will ease further is June 15, which is when the province might enter Step 2 of its COVID-19 recovery plan.
Health officials in B.C. have been cautious to not promise restrictions will lift on that date, saying vaccination rates must increase and case counts must continue to fall.
But during Thursday's COVID-19 briefing, Health Minister Adrian Dix said he, Premier John Horgan and Dr. Bonnie Henry will "be addressing issues on Monday around Step 1 and Step 2."
Henry also presented the latest modelling data on Thursday and said it shows B.C. "will be in a good position to continue safely moving forward with our restart plan."
So if the province enters Step 2 next week, what does that mean? The following are the guidelines the province said would be part of Step 2 when B.C.'s recovery plan was first released on May 25.
New rules for gatherings
In Step 2, rules for personal indoor gatherings don't change. The same rules from Step 1 will apply: up to five visitors are allowed at a personal residence.
However, the province says rules for outdoor personal gatherings will shift. In Step 1, only gatherings of up to 10 people are permitted. But in Step 2, outdoor personal gatherings can have up to 50 people. Those can include birthdays, backyard barbecues and block parties, the province says.
As well, playdates are encouraged.
For organized events, indoor seated gatherings of up to 50 people are permitted with a COVID-19 safety plan in place. In Step 1, those gatherings – unless it’s a religious worship service – are limited to 10 people.
Local travel restrictions ease
Under Step 1, B.C. residents are encouraged to travel within their health region only. But under Step 2, provincial travel restrictions will lift, allowing residents to travel recreationally throughout B.C.
The province says transit services, including BC Ferries, will increase their operations as needed.
New guidelines for restaurants and workplaces
Starting in Step 2, restaurants and bars will be allowed to serve liquor until midnight, instead of until 10 p.m.
Banquet halls will also be allowed to operate with limited capacity and with a COVID-19 safety plan in place. Health officials say they'll start consulting with that sector to come up with next steps on easing restrictions.
For other workplaces, a gradual return to work will continue and small in-person meetings will be permitted in Step 2.
Sports and recreation
When Step 1 began in B.C., indoor low-intensity group exercise and outdoor games and practices were permitted.
In Step 2, indoor high-intensity group fitness will be allowed with reduced capacity and indoor games and practices for both adults and youth can be held. Spectators won't be allowed at indoor games, but as many as 50 people can watch outdoor games.
"Step 2 is coming up. And so far, the data that we have is supporting that we can go there," Henry said Thursday.
"I'm confident that we can take this step, as long as we increase our contacts in a slow, and measured way, we register and get fully vaccinated, we use our layers of protection and continue to support one another with kindness and compassion."
After entering Step 2, the earliest more restrictions will ease is July 1. That will include removing the mask mandate and instead making masks recommended in indoor public settings, increasing indoor social gatherings, removing group size limits at restaurants and reopening casinos and nightclubs.