British Columbia has revealed its four-step reopening plan now that more than 60 per cent of adults have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
"British Columbians have sacrificed so much over the last 15 months to help keep people and our communities safe," a statement from B.C. Premier John Horgan reads. "We have made tremendous strides with our vaccination program, and we are now in a position where we can move forward with a plan to slowly bring us back together."
What changes in each step of B.C. reopening?
Step 1 - May 25: 60% of adults with Dose 1 of a COVID-19 vaccine, cases and hospitalization stable
Maximum of five visitors or one household allowed for indoor personal gatherings
Maximum of 10 people for outdoor personal gatherings
Maximum of 10 people for seated indoor organized gatherings with safety protocols
Maximum of 50 people for seated outdoor organized gatherings with safety protocols
Indoor and outdoor dining for up to six people with safety protocols
Recreational travel only within travel region
Resume outdoor sports games with no spectators, low-intensity fitness with safety protocols
Start gradual return to workplaces (employees can work in the office for a few days, following their employer's safety plan)
Province-wide mask mandate, business safety protocols and physical distancing measures remain in place
Return of indoor in-person faith-based gatherings with reduced capacity
Step 2 - mid-June (June 15 – earliest date): 65% of adults with Dose 1 of a COVID-19 vaccine, cases and hospitalizations declining
Maximum of 50 people for outdoor social gatherings
Maximum of 50 people for seated indoor organized gatherings with safety protocols (ex. banquet halls, movie theatres, live theatre)
No B.C. travel restrictions – check local travel advisories
Indoor sports games and high-intensity fitness with safety protocols
Spectators for outdoor sports with a 50 person maximum
Employees can return to work fully, with the ability to hold small in-person meetings
Provincewide mask mandate, business safety protocols and physical distancing measures remain in place
Step 3 - early July (July 1 – earliest date): 70% of adults with Dose 1 of a COVID-19 vaccine, cases low and hospitalizations declining
Provincial state of emergency and public health emergency lifted
Returning to usual for indoor and outdoor personal gatherings
Increased capacity for indoor and outdoor organized gatherings, with safety plans
Nightclubs and casinos reopen with capacity limits and safety plans
New public health and workplace guidance around personal protective equipment, physical distancing and business protocols
Step 4 - early September (Sept. 7 – earliest date): more than 70% of adults with Dose 1 of a COVID-19 vaccine, cases low and stable (contained clusters) and hospitalizations low
Returning to normal social contact
Increased capacity at larger organized gatherings
No limits on indoor and outdoor spectators at sports
Businesses operating with new safety plans
When asked about largely basing the estimates for each step of the reopening plan on first COVID-19 vaccine doses, opposed to individuals who are fully vaccinated, particularly as more transmissible COVID-19 variants of concern have emerged, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, stressed that the public health measures to reduce transmission work against all strains of the virus.
"Yes, for all strains, having two doses gives us greater personal protection but more importantly is the overall protection we have in the community," Dr. Henry said. "Having everybody with a single dose is the most important single factor to get us to reducing community transmission overall."
"And then we need to boost everybody’s individual protection with the second dose, starting with those who are more likely to have severe illness or death from COVID-19."
The province will be moving up second dose appointment for people in B.C., starting with older populations and those with immune-compromising conditions, with more guidance expected to be provided later this week.
Dr. Henry also cautioned that the province's plan may need to be slowed down, depending on how the COVID-19 situation evolves.
When asked about the possibility of a vaccine passport or certificate, the provincial health officer said that she thinks it will be necessary for international travel but it is not something that she wants to see implemented on a provincial level.
"This virus has shown us that there are inequities in our society that have been exacerbated by this pandemic and there is no way that we will recommend inequities be increased by use of things like vaccine passports for services, for public access here in British Columbia," Dr. Henry said.