British Columbia will begin a slow move into Phase 3 of the COVID-19 restart plan, Premier John Horgan announced on Wednesday.
This includes allowing non-essential travel within the province as well as reopening hotels, the film and television industry and some entertainment venues like movie theatres.
“Although we are going to have a summer that’s better than we would have thought a few months ago, this is not a return to normal,” said Horgan. “This is an extraordinary summer that will require a continued effort from British Columbians."
Now that non-essential travel is reopened, Horgan encouraged British Columbians to explore the province in order to make up for the lack of international tourism and support that sector of the economy.
British Columbia has been able to keep its transmission rates flat even as people return to restaurants and as TransLink’s ridership doubled since its COVID-19 low, which encouraged the province to begin Phase 3.
Horgan and health officer Bonnie Henry highlighted the importance of continuing to practice health measures aimed at fighting COVID-19 in order to not lose the progress the province has made. Horgan and Henry highlighted how it’s particularly important for people to follow these rules as they begin to travel through the province. This includes maintaining six feet of distance, wearing a mask when that is not possible, washing your hands and staying home if you are sick.
“If we go too fast we risk losing the ground that we’ve made,” Henry said.
Horgan is hopeful that if people are respectful of the communities they travel to and continue to practice social distancing measures that Phase 3 will be as successful as Phase 2.
The province has released traveling guidelines that highlight the importance of having a plan before you travel including ensuring that the communities people are planning to visit are ready to accept them. Some B.C. communities, like Haida Gwaii, have been hesitant to let visitors return. Horgan said the B.C. travellers must travel respectfully and abide by the wishes of smaller communities they intend to travel to.
Worksafe B.C. and provincial health officers have worked with industries to develop restart plans for hotels, resorts, film and entertainment venues.
Horgan also extended the provincial state of emergency by two weeks to July 7. He highlighted how it’s critically important to keep international boarders closed, as there have been new outbreaks throughout the western United States. As a result of those closures, Horgan stressed the importance of local travel to the British Columbian economy. The premier said that the decision to open intra-provincial travel was made based on the advice of health professionals and not influenced by economic reasons.