B.C. to announce reopening plan as COVID-19 case counts continue to drop

Officials in B.C. will announce their plan today for getting life and the economy back toward normal by reopening parts of the province, as daily case counts continue to drop and the number of vaccinations rise.

Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon are all scheduled to explain the restart plan at 1 p.m. PT.

CBC News will livestream the news conference.

Horgan said last week the restart will “set the course” for a future direction as COVID-19 cases decline and more people receive vaccinations, but it will take time to reach the final destination.

The latest round of “circuit breaker” restrictions expired at midnight, eight weeks after they came into effect.

The province had been entering Phase 3 of its restart plan when case counts climbed to new highs in March, forcing a stop to indoor dining, adult group fitness and non-essential travel outside health authorities. Health officials also backtracked on allowing in-person religious services.

Daily case counts and active case counts in B.C. have come down by 61 and 55 per cent, respectively, since peaking last month. Hospitalizations are also down 38 per cent. Roughly 53 per cent of eligible British Columbians now have at least one dose of vaccine.

As of Monday, the province’s rolling average of cases and active case load were at their lowest points in six months.

People enjoy the Robson Square plaza in Vancouver on March 31. The last ‘circuit-breaker’ round of restrictions began on March 29 as the province dealt with an ‘exponential growth’ in cases of COVID-19. 

Horgan said the plan to reopen involves the gradual lifting of health restrictions and, by July, the province will be in a much better place.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the restart plan will take a measured approach as opposed to an immediate, full-scale return to normal.

She previously said it was a priority to reopen restaurants for indoor dining once community spread was low, and she hoped to see some types of larger gatherings permitted by the summer.

Walt Judas, B.C.’s Tourism Industry Association chief executive officer, said the non-essential travel restrictions were deeply felt by tourism operators who saw fishing, golfing and weekend getaway ventures dry up.

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