VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – You can now dine with more people, have more guests over, and won’t have to wear masks in all indoor public spaces, as B.C. moves into the third stage of its plan to lift COVID-19 restrictions.
The province officially kicked off this third phase in its restart plan on July 1. Taking this next step toward normal comes as case counts and hospitalizations continue to fall, and immunization rates rise.
As part of the changes, the use of masks in indoor, public spaces is now “recommended” for people aged 12 and older who are not yet fully vaccinated, as opposed to “mandatory.”
Full vaccination means 14 days after receiving your second dose. The province stresses proof of vaccination does not need to be requested by service providers.
“Some people may also continue to choose to wear masks, and that’s okay,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday. “We need to remember that we all need to go on our own pace. And there are some reasons why we may be feel more at risk, or it may be important for us to continue to protect ourselves using masks. The face coverings order under the Emergency Programs Act will be lifted.”
The third phase of the plan OKs the return to Canada-wide recreational travel. However, people are being urged to plan ahead, do research before arriving at a destination, and to respect any local advisories.
She says not every community is ready to receive visitors, but many others are.
While there are no restrictions on who can come to B.C., Henry says it’s preferred only those who have been vaccinated come for now.
“We recognize that you’re bringing risk with you and we know that as more people are coming into British Columbia, there are a chance that people will come with this virus, and they may come with different strains or variants of the virus,” she said. “So we need to have some measures in place to be able to detect people [with the virus]. We know we have a strategy now, where we will be testing everyone so we know exactly what strains are circulating.”
In addition to the return of recreational travel, careful social contact is also recommended. The province continues to urge people who do not feel well to get tested and stay home.
Gatherings, socializing, and dining out:
Stage three means a “return to normal” for indoor and outdoor personal gatherings. Organized indoor gatherings (including weddings) of 50 people or up to 50 per cent capacity (whichever is greater) are also now allowed, as are outdoor organized gatherings with 5,000 people or 50 per cent capacity (again, whichever is greater.)
There are no longer capacity limits or restrictions on religious services and worships, and festivals, fairs, and trade shows are able to return, as long as they have an adequate communicable disease plan.
Group limits for indoor and outdoor dining and events are officially lifted, and businesses are able to return to normal liquor service hours. However, socializing between tables remains banned.
Night clubs, which have been closed for months, are able to reopen, but dancing is still not allowed, and only 10 people will be permitted to sit together at a time, again, with no moving between tables.
Meanwhile, casinos have reopened after more than a year of being closed. Those establishments will operate at reduced capacity and only about half of gaming stations will be open. Barriers and masks are recommended.
“Businesses will transition from a COVID-19 Safety Plan to a communicable disease plan. Some safety measures will remain, like physical barriers,” reads the province’s website.
Sports and exercise:
All indoor fitness classes may resume at normal capacity, as can gyms and recreation facilities.
For sporting events, outdoor games can host up to 5,000 spectators or 50 per cent capacity (whichever is greater), while indoor spectators will be limited to 50 or 50 per cent (whichever is greater.)
B.C. is expected to enter the fourth and final stage of its restart plan as early as Sept. 7.