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BC Politics

BC Enters Next Stage of Eased COVID Restrictions

Theatres to open, larger gatherings and in-province travel are all allowed as vaccinations increase and cases stay low.

By Moira Wyton and Maddi Dellplain 14 Jun 2021 |

Moira Wyton is The Tyee’s health reporter. Follow her @moirawyton or reach her here. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative. Maddi Dellplain is a journalist and graduate student at UBC’s School of Journalism, Writing and Media. She is currently completing a practicum at The Tyee. Find her on Twitter @maddianne11.

British Columbia will enter the second phase of its reopening plan Tuesday, public health officials announced today, signalling confidence in the province’s pandemic trajectory as cases and hospitalizations continue to decline.

Recent modelling shows decreasing transmission in all areas of the province and forecasts only a temporary, marginal uptick in cases in the coming weeks as vaccinations continue with more and more second doses.

Combined with more than 75 per cent of eligible adults having received a shot already, the data indicate B.C. is in a good place to advance its return to pre-pandemic life, Premier John Horgan said.

“It is truly an exciting day for British Columbians,” he said, “and we all did this together.”

Starting Tuesday, current travel restrictions will be lifted allowing British Columbians to travel within the province, indoor venues like movie and live theatres will open with limited capacity and indoor sports will resume without spectators, while up to 50 spectators will be allowed for outdoor sports.

Outdoor gatherings like birthday parties can have up to 50 people, the same as for indoor seated gatherings in banquet halls or restaurants with distancing protocols in place.

As a part of step two reopening, employees working from home can begin to return to work and hold small in-person meetings.

“This is great news for B.C. businesses, but we know that some businesses are still struggling and we will continue to support them,” Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation Ravi Kahlon said.

Interprovincial travel remains discouraged as the province monitors how reopenings progress in other Canadian jurisdictions.

The mask mandate and restrictions limiting indoor socializing to up to five people of a single other household remain in effect.

And those looking to travel within the province are advised to consult with the Know Before You Go guide to ensure that different communities are ready to accept visitors.

“The best way we can show our love for B.C. and tourism and businesses is to get out and plan a week-long getaway instead of a weekend,” said Melanie Mark, minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport.

Shipments of the Moderna mRNA vaccine expected at the end of this week could also speed up the province’s vaccination campaign.

Today the province reported more than 3.4 million first doses and 613,453 second doses have been administered, covering 75.9 per cent of adults over 18 with at least one dose and 74.1 per cent of those over 12.

Much of the future of the reopening also depends on the progress of the delta variant, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said, which is steady in B.C. and causing outbreaks around Canada, including 22 cases at a Calgary hospital.

The variant is believed to be more transmissible and potentially able to better evade antibodies produced by current vaccines, Henry said, but public health continues to monitor the emerging evidence closely as it makes up an increasing proportion of new cases in B.C.

In the meantime, the province’s reopening plan is going slowly at minimum two-week intervals, so it can “monitor progress and ensure we are able to confidently move forward safely,” Henry said. “A slow and gradual approach will be taken.”

While the provincewide numbers are encouraging, certain communities in the northern and interior regions of the province still lag behind in vaccination numbers compared to the Lower Mainland and Island.

Public health is working on vaccine promotion and establishing drop-in clinics in communities with low access and uptake so far, Henry said.

British Columbians who choose to travel and gather within current guidance should be mindful that not everyone will feel safe doing the same things.

“As we continue to open up we need to be respectful of people and communities with different comfort levels,” Henry said.

And when visiting new places, continuing to wear a mask, physically distance and stay home when sick is essential, she said.

“With kindness, compassion, diligence and commitment we continue to make great strides here in B.C.,” she added.  [Tyee]

Read more: Coronavirus, BC Politics

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