Step 2: B.C. lifts more COVID-19 restrictions including ban on travel within the province
VANCOUVER -- B.C. is moving ahead in its COVID-19 restart plan and lifting more restrictions, health officials announced Monday.
The changes come into effect on Tuesday, Premier John Horgan said in a news conference alongside Dr. Bonnie Henry and multiple cabinet ministers.
The government previously said COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations must be "declining" and at least 65 per cent of the adult population must be at least partially vaccinated before the province could move ahead with its restart plan.
More than 75 per cent of B.C. adults have now received at least one dose of vaccine.
Henry said data shows the province is "in a good position" with case counts and hospitalizations.
"Our progress so far, like the entire pandemic is a shared effort. A shared effort between public health, businesses, between every individual here in British Columbia," Henry said Monday. "We can all be proud of what we have achieved over the last few weeks."
Henry first announced the province's four-step plan last month. Here's what Step 2 includes:
Provincial travel restrictions will be lifted starting Tuesday, allowing for recreational travel within B.C. Non-essential travel outside the three designated health regions was banned on April 23. In anticipation of the influx of travellers, BC Transit and BC Ferries will be offering increased service as needed.
"This means we can visit family or friends across B.C. and stay for a while and visit in those communities," Henry said.
Horgan said non-essential travel from outside the province is still discouraged, however.
"Our advice to other Canadians is we will welcome you down the road, but not today," he said. "If you don't have business in British Columbia, it's our preference that you stay where you are."
The limit on outdoor personal gatherings, including birthday parties, backyard barbecues and block parties is increasing to 50 people. The cap on indoor personal gatherings will remain at five people or one other household, but playdates are allowed.
Seated indoor gatherings are increasing to 50 people, in line with the previous limit on seated outdoor and religious worship services. For larger places of worship, as much as 10 per cent capacity is allowed, if it's larger than 50. Weddings are considered events and follow indoor and outdoor organized gatherings rules.
Henry explained those rules mean indoor theatres – including movie theatres – can safely operate with capacity limits and COVID-19 safety plans in place.
The cap on indoor and outdoor dining of six people at restaurants will remain in effect, though liquor will be served until midnight, instead of 10 p.m. For the first time in months, banquet halls will be able to operate with limited capacity and a COVID-19 safety plan in place. Consultation with sector associations will also begin for next steps on easing restrictions.
Offices and workplaces
Offices are allowed to continue gradually bringing employees back to workplaces. COVID-19 Safety Plan and daily health checks will remain mandatory. Step 2 allows small, in-person meetings as well.
Sports and exercise
Both high- and low intensity-indoor group exercise will be permitted with reduced capacity. Indoor and outdoor games and practices for both adults and youth group/team sports are also returning. Up to 50 spectators are now allowed outdoors, but are still banned indoors.
Under Step 2, the province's mask rules for indoor public spaces are still in place.
"Physically distancing and giving others space is also still required," Henry said.
"We need to recognize that not everybody is at the same place right now and we need to respect their ability to stay away from others."
After Step 2, the earliest date more restrictions will be lifted is July 1. Henry and Horgan emphasized officials will be closely monitoring cases, hospitalizations and vaccination rates over the next two weeks before moving to Step 3.
"We will continue to monitor through the incubation period before moving to the next stage," Henry said. "We will expect to have continued progress, moving back where we can get more of our social connections back together."