The return of part-time school for a few weeks in June is not a signal for a return to normal, and businesses should take care as they bring employees back during the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C. Premier John Horgan says.
Taking questions after a cabinet meeting May 20, Horgan gave assurances to teachers and other employees that the province’s “phase two” reopening of the economy will have some “bumps on the road” but will be done safely.
“We want to do a dry run for teachers, for support staff for students, to see what physically distant school looks like,” Horgan said, emphasizing that each school district will make its own detailed plans to finish the school year interrupted by coronavirus restrictions.
B.C. schools have continued operating through public health restrictions, with in-class instruction for the children of essential workers. That is set to step up starting June 1, with part-time classroom instruction for kindergarten to grade five, likely alternating days, and one day a week for grade six and up.
“These are times filled with anxiety, but we’ve tried to reduce that anxiety as much as possible by putting in a plan that will allow for physical distancing for teachers and kids, as well as making sure that we’re reminding children of how joyous school can be,” Horgan said. “For those kids who are having challenges with online learning, this is an opportunity to get a little bit of face-to-face instruction.”
As restaurants, pubs, hair salons and other businesses begin to come back to operation, Horgan had advice for the operators.
“Employers should not be forcing employees to come to work if they’re not ready to do so,” he said.
Horgan was asked about the extension of Canada’s border closure with the U.S. for non-essential travel, while travel across Canada continues, including to Quebec where the COVID-19 infection rate is higher than most of the U.S. The international border restriction has been extended for at least another 30 days to June 21. Canadians have a constitutional right to travel within the country, he said.
“I’m pretty happy with the border efforts we’ve got in place today,” since B.C. government staff were sent to border crossings to make sure people returning to Canada have a 14-day self-isolation plan, Horgan said. Since then, 40-45,000 people have crossed into B.C. and only about 150 didn’t have a written plan and required government-supervised quarantine, he said.
Electronic tracking has not been necessary, and “the old telephone and knock on the door” has been enough to make sure people self-isolate, he said.