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Easing COVID-19 restrictions: B.C. set to lay out plan for reopening of economy

Last Updated May 6, 2020 at 10:30 am PDT

(Nikitha Martins, NEWS 1130 Photo)

B.C.'s plan to reopen the economy is set to be released on Wednesday

While plan is expected to include reopening of some businesses, physical distancing is going to remain part of life

B.C. is among the last of the provinces to table a plan to start reopening shuttered portions of the economy

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – B.C. is among the last of the provinces to table a plan to start reopening shuttered portions of the economy, but those details are finally expected today.

Provincial health officer Doctor Bonnie Henry has said it will include measures for summer sports teams, the retail sector, and hair salons, but she also noted physical distancing is going to remain a part of life through the coming summer.

That means keeping gatherings small, and preferably outdoors. Maximum group size restrictions are likely to remain at 50.

“So, this summer’s going to be like we’re all trying to figure it out together,” she told reporters on Monday, adding no one wants to see COVID-19 case numbers spike back up. “It is our curve, and we can continue to push it down and keep it there.”

Henry released data on Monday showing physical distancing measures that closed schools, restaurants and bars in mid-March helped to reduce the spread of COVID-19. She also suggested some measures used in grocery stores could be implemented at other retail outlets and restaurants, and may include limiting the number of people allowed in as well as plastic shields separating workers from customers.

“Physical distancing, it has made a difference,” Henry said. “It has allowed us to put the brakes on COVID-19, but we haven’t stopped the car and it’s very unlikely that we’re going to be able to, at least in the coming months.”

B.C. Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix, and Dr. Henry will provide details from the provincial capital at 3 p.m. this afternoon.

Alberta has allowed some scheduled, non-urgent surgeries to resume as of Monday. Service provided by dentists, physiotherapists and other medical professionals are also to be permitted. Next week, retail businesses in the province will be allowed to reopen gradually. Restaurants and cafes with no bar service will be allowed to run at half capacity.

Quebec started to allow retail stores outside of Montreal to start re-opening this week, with those in the greater Montreal region set to follow suit on May 11. In Manitoba, people can go into barbershops, museums, and libraries again.

Many provinces, though, have avoided firm timelines. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said, “the virus sets its own speed.”

Ontario allow a small list of mostly seasonal businesses to reopen on Monday.

Newfoundland and Labrador plans to loosen some public health restrictions in a series of “alert levels” descending from five. The move to Level 4 on May 11 is to allow some medical procedures to resume as well as low-risk activities, such as golf, hunting and fishing.

Nova Scotia is easing some public health restrictions as well, though directives around physical distancing and social gatherings will remain in place.

The government of Prince Edward Island allowed some priority, non-urgent surgeries and select health-service providers, such as physiotherapists and optometrists, to open on May 1. The plan also allows outdoor gatherings and non-contact outdoor recreational activities of no more than five individuals from different households, but will continue to see people screened while entering the province.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs put the first phase of his four-phase reopening plan into action on April 24, allowing limited play on golf courses, as well as fishing and hunting. Two families are allowed to be part of a so-called “two-family bubble” under current measures, and some post-secondary students are already allowed to return if deemed safe by the school.

Manitoba now has some of the loosest restrictions in Canada, with non-urgent health care, hair salons and barbershops, restaurant patios and museums, libraries and campgrounds allowed to reopen as of Monday.

-With files from Liza Yuzda