The Government of B.C. has detailed guidelines on a phased approach to slowly open up more businesses and parks and allow for gatherings once again to adjust to life with COVID-19.

B.C.’s Restart Plan will have the provincial government working closely with public health officials, labour organizations, and businesses to gradually lift restrictions while monitoring public health to mitigate as much risk as possible.

The B.C. said that its plan will be unique, due to only a comparatively small number of sectors needing to close down by public health orders.

“Our plan puts safety first. British Columbians have made enormous sacrifices so far, and it’s thanks to them that we’re able to begin to lift some restrictions,” said Premier John Horgan. “We’ll allow activities to resume as the evidence and experts tell us it is appropriate to do so. By moving carefully and deliberately, we will help British Columbians get to a ‘new normal,’ where more of our social and economic life can resume.”

The province is currently in the midst of Phase 1 of the Restart Plan, which includes child care for essential workers, enhanced resources for health care centres and online learning for K-12 students.

Phase 2, which is intended to begin in mid-May will include:

  • Small social gatherings.
  • Elective surgeries and regulated health services such as physiotherapy, dentistry, in-person counselling and chiropractors.
  • Day-use for provincial parks.
  • Non-essential businesses keeping with safe operations plans.
  • Resuming provincial legislature for regular sittings.
  • Voluntary in-person schooling for K-12 students.

The province said that it has looked to how essential businesses have continued to operate to determine guidelines for non-essential businesses.

“In this next phase, we must continue to maintain a very high standard of personal conduct,” said Horgan. “We’re asking people to use common sense, and follow there five principals as we implement the Restart 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. We expect people to make informed choices on how to interact with each other.”

Phase 3 of the plan will see an expansion of operations for businesses, and allow for the following services to open up:

  • More parks will open and camping will resume.
  • Film and TV production will resume.
  • Movie theatres will open.
  • Personal services will be allowed to resume, such as spas and non-medical massage.
  • Hotels and resorts will be opened.

The timeline for Phase 3 of the plan, however, is not yet set in stone.

“Proceeding to the next step will depend on the outcomes and the path of COVID-19. Over the next months, we will continue to expand the number of businesses and services that can operate with strict safety protocols,” said Horgan.

Phase 4 of the plan will not be implemented until either vaccination is available, board COVID-19 treatment is available or community immunity from the illness is achieved. Up until that point, large gatherings over 50 people, such as conventions and concerts, will not be allowed.

“The success of these plans depends on a number of factors.  To succeed, we’re going to need large scale testing, rapid identification and contact tracing. We’re going to need 100% commitment to physical distancing, handwashing and following the orders and guidance of Dr. Henry and B.C. health officials,” explained Horgan. “Most important to our success, we need to come together as a community and as a province.”