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Small outdoor events, faith-based gatherings can resume in B.C.

Travel remains restricted as province begins Step 1 of its four-step restart plan
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Effective immediately, British Columbians will be permitted to go out for dinner at a restaurant with a small group of friends or host a small dinner party indoors (for up to five people) or outdoors (for up to 10 people)

B.C. is beginning its slow and methodical restart by lifting certain restrictions, and keeping others in effect.

Outdoor organized gatherings of up to 50 people, seated indoor gatherings for up to 10 and limited in-person faith-based gatherings are permitted to resume with safety protocols in place, effective Tuesday.

Indoor dining at restaurants and bars is allowed with a maximum of six people per party. Gyms and other facilities can reboot low-intensity fitness classes and British Columbians can resume outdoor sports with no spectators.

Non-essential travel between health zones remains restricted, and other province-wide COVID-19 protocols – such as mask and physical distancing measures – remain in place. Travel restrictions will continue to be enforced, according to the province.

“Today we begin the road of bringing British Columbians back together,” said Premier John Horgan. "It means you'll be able to have more guests over to your home or have a barbecue tonight in your backyard."

On Tuesday, the province shared a four-step restart plan to ease people and businesses out of the pandemic, and back to phased-in versions of normalcy.

The restriction changes and extensions noted above form Step 1.

Step 2 is expected to take effect no earlier than June 15 and when 65% of B.C.’s adult population has received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. At present, more than 60% of the adult population has been vaccinated.

This second phase will expand seated indoor gatherings to 50 people from 10, effectively easing restrictions on movie theatres, banquet halls and arts venues. Up to 50 spectators will be permitted at outdoor sporting events, and travel restrictions within B.C. will be lifted.

When seven in 10 British Columbians are vaccinated, B.C. will lift its provincial state of emergency and public health emergency. Indoor and outdoor personal gatherings will be permitted and organized events will see expanded capacity.

Nightclubs and casinos will be able to re-open with capacity limits, and new guidelines around mask-wearing and physical distancing will be shared.

B.C. will move to Step 3 no earlier than July 1. By Step 4 – expected no earlier than September 7 – British Columbians will be able to return to normal contact, and spectator limits at indoor and outdoor sporting events will be lifted entirely.

B.C.’s state of emergency has been extended for another two-week period, and lasts through to the end of June 8.

"This is a fantastic day to be in British Columbia," Horgan said. "But I want to reassure everyone that there is still a lot of anxiety in the community around COVID-19, and that's appropriate."

"This restart plan, I believe, is appropriate for where we are as a province, and it's appropriate for where we are in terms of our battle with COVID-19," Horgan said.

Different gatherings allowed under B.C.'s restart plan

Step 1 (effective immediately): Going out for dinner at a restaurant with a small group of friends, hosting a dinner party indoors (for up to five people) or outdoors (for up to 10 people) or hosting an outdoor wedding for up to 50 people 
Step 2 (June 15 at the earliest): Outdoor and indoor weddings and gatherings for up to 50 people
Step 3 (July 1 at the earliest): Normal personal gatherings, travelling to attend a family reunion or attending a music festival
Step 4 (September 7 at the earliest): Attending a Halloween party, concert, large sporting event or office social party

hwoodin@biv.com

@hayleywoodin