British Columbia will not be easing any COVID-19 restrictions until after the May long weekend — and when they are eased, it will be done slowly.
In a wide-ranging interview set to air on Focus BC on BC1 Friday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said no decisions have been made yet on whether the restrictions, currently in place until May 26, will remain.
“We have learned from what we have seen around the world, from what we have seen here in B.C. — we need to go slow and steady,” Henry said.
British Columbians are currently banned from interprovincial travel, gathering socially indoors, attending events and dining in at restaurants.
Henry is working alongside public health officials and Premier John Horgan’s government to outline what a ‘Restart 2.0’ plan will look like.
Saskatchewan has already released a plan, including a move back to indoor restaurant dining by the end of May.
The B.C. plan will be released after the May long weekend. By then, all adults will be eligible to book a vaccine appointment and more than 60 per cent of the population is expected to have had one dose.
Unlike Saskatchewan, British Columbia is basing any reopening plan on not just immunization targets, but also hospitalizations, positivity rate and case counts.
“We are not going to be flipping the switch. We are very slowly going to get back to a new normal. A new place, a new restart. You can expect after the long weekend, we will slowly be getting back to some of those things in our lives,” Henry said.
“I think people should be planning slowly. It is a dimmer switch. There are more important things than others, there are some crucial businesses, we want to have social gatherings again. Yes, we want to be able to travel in a limited way.”
As for when British Columbians could start planning trips, Henry did not want to raise expectations.
In February, she increased optimism by suggesting travel may be fine by the March break. Instead, cases went up and many travellers still left their communities against the updated provincial guidance.
Many families are anxious about resuming sport games. Currently, kids can practice with their teammates but can’t play games. Adult recreational sports are banned.
Henry said outdoor sports should come back at some point in June, but indoor sports will take longer.
The arts and culture sector has also been devastated by the pandemic.
Henry said the industry should expect something similar to last summer, where theatres and playhouses were open but with COVID safety plans and limited crowds.
“What can we do as a community? Can we have theatre open? Can we have art open? I think there is a chance of a lot of that happening in the summer, in July.”
As for professional sports, Henry said she hopes fans will be in the stands by the late summer or fall. This could mean the BC Lions have bums in seats at BC Place for the start of the CFL season.
“I’m watching the U.K. where they have done experiments, doing planned events when people are monitored,” Henry said.
“Later in the summer, into the fall, we will be looking at spectators in the fall. I would love to see the Canucks again, but next season.”