Premier John Horgan says British Columbia will start moving forward with safely restarting social and economic activity beginning in mid-May – but that won’t include changing the advice against non-essential travel before the Victoria Day long weekend.
Under B.C.’s Restart Plan, released May 5, the government aims to work with public health officials, businesses and labour organizations to lift restrictions in four phases, gradually allowing more social and economic activity.
Horgan said the province is already in phase one.
The second phase starts in mid-May, and includes: allowing small gatherings of family and friends of about two to six people with appropriate distancing measures; resuming elective surgeries, outpatient clinics and diagnostic tests, and other health services like dentistry, physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage therapy and in-person counselling; reopening hair salons and barbershops and restaurants and pubs.
Other sectors included in phase two are: retail businesses; museums, art galleries and libraries; provincial parks (day use); beaches, sports fields and other outdoor spaces; public transit; offices; and voluntary resumption of in-class instruction for K-12, more use of online learning and schools reopening in September.
The third phase will roll out between June and September, but only if COVID-19 transmission rates continue to decline or remain low.
It will include: hotels and resorts (June); provincial parks and overnight camping (June); movie theatres and symphonies (July); and film and TV production (July).
Resuming events like concerts, conventions and other large gatherings – phase four – may be one to two years away, contingent on a vaccine being developed, the development of herd immunity or development of an effective treatment for COVID-19.
One area Sunshine Coast residents have been waiting for information on is the province’s position on travel during the upcoming Victoria Day long weekend.
“This is not the time for a road trip to another community for a hike or a holiday... We need to stay close to home – that’s a key part of our recovery,” Horgan said at a news conference announcing the plan.
Asked specifically about travelling to coastal communities by ferry to visit family or second homes, Horgan said the direction from the province remains “if you don’t need to be travelling you shouldn’t be travelling.”
“Having said that,” Horgan continued, “when we get into phase three later in the summer that might be the better time to get to that second property… You’re a taxpayer, you have property in that community, you have a right to be there, but again you have to acknowledge and recognize that permanent residents in those communities may not have access to acute care facilities and may be concerned that the spread of the virus in their community is something that they want to avoid.”
Horgan also said with ferry traffic numbers still down more than 80 per cent from last year, he doesn’t think people are taking “an enormous amount of non-essential trips.”
“I hope people will exercise their good judgment and not travel to another community to enjoy the long weekend. Every corner of British Columbia is spectacular… Wherever you live is an outstanding place – stay there and enjoy it.”
Local governments on the Sunshine Coast are delivering the same message as the long weekend nears.
– With files from Business in Vancouver