B.C. Premier John Horgan announced a four step plan to reopen the province at a news conference in Esquimalt on Tuesday.
More than two months ago, the province introduced a “circuit breaker,” shutting down indoor gatherings and dining to stop the spread of COVID-19 as the province battled the third wave.
In April, the government also restricted travel within the province using the Emergency Program Act that was put in place and expiring on the May long weekend.
Last night at midnight marked the end of some of those restrictions.
Horgan said it was an important day for the province in its fight against the virus.
“Today, we begin the road of bringing British Columbians back together,” he said. “B.C.’s safe restart plan will be guided by safely re-opening businesses, resuming activities and returning to normal life over four steps.
The premier said they would do this by monitoring infections and keeping hospital visits down, and this will be done by making sure vaccination rates continue to go up.
“We won’t be doing this all at once, we will do it slowly based on where the science takes us,” he shared.
Tuesday marked the start of step one of the re-opening process with people in the province be able to enjoy a meal in a restaurant, have guests visit and have friends over for a visit.
Travelling within different regions is still not allowed.
“We want to stay in those three key regions, the island, the rest of British Columbia and the lower mainland,” he stated.
Horgan said step two would be in mid-June, including activities like indoor movies and gym re-opening.
Step three would be early July and could include weddings with up to 50 guests.
Step four wouldn’t come until later in the summer.
B.C.’s Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s voice was overcome with joy and relief as she shared the province’s progress in battling the virus.
“This is a good day and one that I have been waiting for a long time. I am sure many people in British Columbia have too,” she said.
Henry said that over 60 per cent of the province had had the first dose of the vaccine.
Hospitalizations and ICU visits are both down.
“We have an important tool now, and we know how it works and we know how effective it is, and that is what is allowing us to move forward today,” she said. “That important tool is vaccines.”
She shared that case counts in the province are going down, and vaccinations are going up.
“People as young as 12 are eligible for the vaccine, and I know this past weekend a large number of young people went with their family members, with their friends to be immunized as well,” she said.
Horgan shared that optimism about the province’s battle with COVID-19.
“We have made extraordinary sacrifices as a province and a people this past 15 months, and nobody is more excited than the four of us to be moving into a re-opening plan in a careful and thoughtful way,” he said.
But he said there was still anxiety in the community, which is appropriate due to its impact the virus has had on the people in the B.C.
He said they will continue to ask British Columbians to sacrifices for a few more weeks.
“But the light we have been talking about for weeks and weeks now is at hand,” said Horgan.