If you’re like most British Columbians, you’ve been anxiously waiting for the COVID-19 situation to improve so you can travel, see the people you love and attend events – safely.
And according to the province’s health officials, that day is Thursday. But what does that mean for you? Here’s a breakdown of what you can do now that B.C. is in Step 3 of its reopening plan.
B.C. has been under a mask mandate since the fall but that will now be lifted. Health officials are asking British Columbians to still respect the requests of any businesses asking customers to wear face coverings.
Masks remain recommended for anyone ages 12 and up who is not yet fully vaccinated, meaning 14 days after your second vaccine dose.
“Some people may also continue to choose to wear masks, and that’s okay. We need to remember that we all need to go on our own pace,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “There are some reasons why we may feel more at risk or it may be important for us to continue to protect ourselves using masks.”
If you were hoping to host that backyard BBQ or a birthday party, now you can. B.C. has lifted all limits on personal gatherings, both indoor and outdoor. And sleepovers? Now allowed! Henry said that these gatherings are different than events because hosts and attendees will know each other and be able to judge their level of risk.
“We are removing the order because we know the risk, we know the vaccination status, we can invite people into our home based on our risk, and the risk of those around us in our friends and family,” she said.
Events and festivals
After a pause of more than a year (do we even remember what festivals are anymore?), both indoor and outdoor organized gatherings may go ahead. Indoors, organized gatherings may number up to 50 people or 50 per cent capacity, while outdoors they may include 5,000 people or 50 per cent capacity – in both cases, whichever is greater.
“We’ll need those communicable disease plans to make sure that we’re minimizing the risks of people coming when we’re sick, and making sure they have space,” Henry said. Outdoor events, she added, have more freedom because “people can move away from others and keep their distance, it’s not like being seated right next to somebody or in an enclosed space.
Fairs, festivals and trade shows may “return to normal with communicable disease plan” in place. Faith gatherings and worship services can also return to normal, but with safety plans.
As of Thursday, there will be no more rules limiting tables to just six people. Regular liquor service will return, and last call will no longer be limited to midnight. However, people will still not be allowed to socialize between tables and barriers may still be in place where needed. Nightclubs and casino will also reopen, although the former will not yet allow dancing and casinos will be limited in capacity.
Nightclubs may only have 10 people per table, everyone must stay seated, socializing between tables is now allowed and they must remain two metres apart. Casinos will only have 50 per cent of gaming stations open and barriers and masks will remain recommended.
While recreational travel across B.C. has been permitted for a couple of weeks now, travel across the country is no longer being discouraged. However, while B.C. will not be checking vaccination status, the province is encouraging people to get fully vaccinated before coming.
“The guidelines will be what we have said all along, be respectful of those who you’re visiting, and recognize that you’re bringing risk with you,” Henry said.
“Do a little bit of research before you arrive at your destination and respect those local travel advisory advisories. Not every community has received two doses of vaccine for all of their members yet and not every community is ready to receive visitors.”
Workplaces will no longer need to have COVID-19 safety plans, according to Economic Recovery Minister Ravi Kahlon. Instead, they must abide by WorkSafeBC policies to develop communicable disease prevention plans.
“This guide outlines the steps that employers must take to prevent transmission in the workplace. key elements of the prevention include regular hand washing, regular cleaning of surfaces, staying home if you’re sick, and of course, encouraging people to get vaccinated,” Kahlon said.