BC's reopening plan starts in mid-May


VICTORIA -- Health services, hair salons, and restaurants are a few of the industries that will have restrictions lifted or partially lifted in order to resume operations in mid-May if transmission numbers remain low.

Today BC premier John Horgan announced a four phased approach, which the government is calling BC's Restart Plan, to returning BC to the new normal. Phase one is life as it currently is with some sectors closed or reduced. Phase two will take effect in mid-May with most businesses and services increasing services with guidelines and restrictions.

Phase three will take place over the summer months with re-opening of hotels, the film industry, and small entertainment services - like movies or symphonies. The fourth phase will not take effect until a vaccine is available and widely distributed or there is an effective treatment - and that will allow for large gatherings, concerts, and conventions.

Horgan stressed that the timelines for all the phases rely on the number of new COVID-19 cases remaining low. If there is a spike or outbreaks the timeline may be pushed back.

Horgan says through the re-opening there are five principals everyone in British Columbia must follow to ensure there is not another surge in cases.

“Follow these five principals as we implement the re-start plan. We're going to be focusing on personal hygiene, we're going to be staying at home if we're sick, we're going to focus on environmental hygiene, safe social interactions, and physical modifications. We expect British Columbians to practice these every day,” Horgan says.

Personal service providers like hair salons and barber shops will be part of the second phase of re-opening. They will have extra restrictions to ensure the safety of staff and clients including physical distancing where possible, eliminating or reducing waiting areas, and not allowing walk-in services. The government also recommends wearing non-medical masks and putting in physical barriers where possible.

Horgan announced provincial parks will be re-opening for day use before the May long weekend, but will remain closed to camping until later in the summer.

“Some BC Parks will be open in time for the Victoria Day long weekend, let's enjoy that but let's stay close to home,” Horgan says. “This is not the time for a road trip to another community for a hike or a holiday. If you have a provincial park in your area, by all means visit it. Do not travel great distances, we need to stay close to home. That's a key part of our recovery.”

Other sectors that will be re-opening in the second phase are health services including elective surgeries, dentistry, physiotherapy, registered massage therapy, chiropractors, physical therapy and speech therapy and restaurants, cafes and pubs.

The government will be providing industries with guidelines on how to safely re-open if they weren’t required to close, but decided to do so. These industries include: the retail sector, museums, art galleries, libraries, recreation and sports, transit services, and child care.

The government will also be providing guidelines on how to safely resume office based worksites, which will include encouraging working from home and staggering shifts.

Full details of the government’s plan to resume elective surgeries will be announced by Horgan, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Health Minister Adrian Dix May 7 and 10:30 a.m.

Phase two will also allow for smaller gatherings of people where social distancing may not be needed to be followed. Horgan says while this does mean you can physically interact with someone, you should still use caution.

“We're not prescribing to British Columbians who they interact with and how they interact with them, only to say the best way to protect everyone is to observe social distancing, be sure you're washing your hands regularly,” Horgan says. “But if your circle has been tight, then you're welcome to hug your mom, but people have to make those choices.”

Phase three of the approach includes bringing more students in for in-class learning, while also offering online learning.

Currently students whose parents are essential workers are allowed to continue going to school for in class learning. In phase three the number of students allowed will be widened in June, but still not open to all students.

“We're not going to be forcing anyone to come back, but [Education] Minister [Rob] Fleming and I will be working to ensure students whose families need to have kids in class will have that opportunity,” Horgan says. “And we will continue to prepare for the full resumption of class in September.”

In September classes will be returning with extra precautions including daily health screening for students and staff, smaller class sizes by having alternate attendance arrangements and extra space between desks.


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