As British Columbia looks towards an easing of COVID-19 restrictions, the province is ruling out allowing some areas of the province to get back to normal before others.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the province has tried to handle restrictions regionally in the past, and has recognized that the approach doesn’t work when people across B.C. and Canada remain connected through travel.
“We’ve maintained an approach of doing it together here in the province, and I don’t see that changing. We’ve seen that this virus can cause dramatic effects in many communities across the province, and we’re not yet at the point where we have enough immunity across the province that we can do things differently,” Henry said.
“A consistent approach has worked for us and will continue to work for us.”
On Monday, the province announced that over the past three days there were 325 new COVID-19 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 1,201 new cases in Fraser Health, 50 cases in Island Health, 131 in Interior Health and 52 in Northern Health.
There are currently 4,027 active cases of COVID-19 in Fraser Health, compared to 210 active cases in Island Health.
Henry mentioned on Monday the province will be releasing details in the next few days around B.C.’s “post-pandemic” life.
Saskatchewan has already released a full re-opening plan, including a return to in-person dining and in-person religious gatherings with reduced crowds by the end of May.
Saskatchewan’s plan is based heavily on immunizations, with the first goal to ease the restrictions three weeks after 70 per cent of those aged 40 and older receive a first vaccine dose.
“We have many discussions nationally, with my counterparts across the country, although I will say that Saskatchewan’s plan came as a little bit of a surprise to most my colleagues,” Henry said.
“Here in B.C. we have always had our own restart plan, as we had them first, and we have been working across government with advice from public health and it’s been led by the deputy premier, but with all of government and our stakeholders for our Restart 2.0.”
The current ban on social gatherings, events, inter-provincial travel and in-person dining is set to remain in place until May 25.
The province has seen a substantial drop-off in COVID-19 cases, as well as a reduction in hospitalizations linked to the virus, since putting in circuit breaker measures.
British Columbia’s restaurant industry is asking for a return-to-normal plan in order to help with their own planning. Restaurants will need to bring back staff and order food before re-opening in person, advocates say.
“I think it would be terrific for British Columbia to have something like this, both from a motivation point of view and something to look forward to,” B.C. Restaurant and Food Association President Ian Tostenson said of a potential restart plan.
But Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province can’t be too quick to ease up. Dix on Monday pointed to the current case numbers for a reason why people need to continue following the rules.
“We’ve got to live very much in the present right now. That means following public health orders, following public health guidance, getting registered and getting vaccinated,” Dix said.
“If we can do that now it opens up opportunities later, but we’ve got to remember that the present is not the opening up. The present is the orders that are in place, the guidance that is in place: sticking local, doing everything you can and getting registered and getting vaccinated … in the coming weeks and months. We’re not at that place quite yet.”View link »