Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has introduced a new provincial health order allowing for outdoor social gatherings of 10 or fewer people.
The new order comes into effect immediately.
Henry said it means British Columbians can meet friends outside and have a coffee or they can meet grandparents outside.
The guidelines will require people to socially distance outdoors but will be able to gather at parks and on private property including backyards.
However, it should be the same 10 people, Henry said, not different groups of 10 people.
There are no changes to the current indoor gatherings. Children will not be able to have sleepovers, for example.
The province has banned all events and social gatherings province-wide since December.
Henry added Thursday with Spring Break coming up, everyone needs to stay vigilant with these restrictions so that stricter measures do not have to be back in place in a few weeks.
The easing of restrictions comes as cases of COVID-19 continue to grow in the province. But Henry says there is very little evidence of transmission of the virus taking place outdoors.
St. Patrick’s Day
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The province is also bringing in a similar policy for St. Patrick’s Day for liquor sales as put in place for New Year’s Eve. The last call for alcohol sales will be at 8 p.m. at restaurants, bars and liquor stores. All other restrictions remain in place for restaurants and bars including only being able to sit at a table with people in your household or household bubble.
On Thursday, B.C. announced 569 new cases and three deaths.
This brings the provincial total to 86,219 cases and a total of 1,397 people who have lost their lives due to COVID-19.
While 68 people are now in the ICU, there remain 244 people in the hospital.
In total, 79,829 people have contracted and recovered from COVID-19.
Dynamic modelling presented by the province Thursday showed that if British Columbians reduce social contacts the spread of the virus could disappear in the province by May.
But if indoor, non-masked face-to-face contact rates go up just a little more, the province would see daily new cases of the virus climb to more than 1,200 province-wide by May.
The modelling does not factor in the impact of vaccines on spread or what impact the current vaccination plan would have on case counts.