The B.C. government is moving ahead with the second stage of its COVID-19 reopening plan, allowing recreational travel between the Lower Mainland, Interior and Vancouver Island to resume effective Tuesday.
Tourism operators began taking bookings for out-of-region visitors as of May 25, in anticipation of the step two change to take effect Tuesday, June 15. The return of province-wide travel and accommodation includes liquor sales returning to the pre-pandemic cutoff of midnight.
“Step two ends the current travel restrictions in British Columbia,” Premier John Horgan said June 14. “However, we are advising against non-essential travel from out of province. We want that to remain in place as we watch what other provinces across the country do as they start their restart plans as well.”
Step two also includes returning to small office meetings, with similar distance and gathering safety measures that apply to gyms, playing fields, restaurants, retail and schools.
“And we can have events of up to 50 people in restaurants, similar to what we had last summer,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday.
Masks remain mandatory in public indoor spaces until at least July 1. Henry said there is still transmission in communities, even with more than 75 per cent of adults having at least one dose of COVID-19, and one more two-week incubation period for the coronavirus is being monitored before B.C. moves to stage three.
Effective Tuesday, public health orders also allow a limited-capacity return of banquet halls, which were a source of transmission risk from the social events they hosted earlier in the pandemic.
Indoor high-intensity group exercise such as spin classes are allowed to restart, but no indoor spectators are allowed until B.C.’s step three, which begins July 1 at the earliest, assuming COVID-19 transmission and illness stay low.
Step three also includes a return to fairs and festivals, recreational travel across Canada, increased capacity for indoor fitness, reopening of bingo halls and casinos with capacity limits, and larger seminars and business meetings. The public health advice on masks is expected to move from mandatory indoors to recommended as of July 1, meaning businesses and other indoor spaces can set their own mask policy based on their safety plans.