Theatres to reopen, travel ban to be lifted as B.C. enters Step 2 of Restart plan

B.C. is in the second phase of its restart plan, opening doors to movie theatres and high-intensity fitness clubs, and adding traffic to ferries, planes and highways as travel restrictions end within the province.

Premier John Horgan said Monday the province is “on the right track to meet all of our milestones for the restart plans.

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“This means we’re going to be seeing more people that we care about, visiting more places that we want to see, and we will be safely celebrating the major milestones that we’ve missed over the past 15 months.”

B.C. Ferries said customers will no longer be asked whether their trip is essential. Vessels are federally regulated under Transport Canada which continues to mandate face coverings and physical distancing while on board ferries, which means anywhere indoors or outdoors when not in your vehicle. But masks are now optional at outdoor areas of terminals.

Each stage of the four-part reopening depends on more people receiving COVID vaccinations, decreasing case counts, hospitalizations and deaths, and if variants are kept in check.

England has delayed the end of its restrictions due to climbing cases of the Delta variant. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in England it’s people in their teens, 20s, and 30s being infected. “We have very good immunization rates in those groups already,” she said. As well, in B.C. the Alpha B.1.1.7 variant that originated in the United Kingdom remains the dominant strain.

Until at least July 1, masks will still be mandatory at indoor public places, and business safety protocols and physical-distancing requirements will remain in place.

The order on personal gatherings inside homes remains unchanged and should “remain small for now,” said Horgan. “We need to make sure we stick to one [other] household, or five people.”

Just over 75 per cent of adults in B.C. have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose; 65 per cent was one of the benchmarks for easing restrictions.

“We exceeded 75 per cent, which gives us that confidence that we can move forward now,” Henry said.

Capacities for indoor faith gatherings are increasing, going to 50 people or 10 per cent of larger places of worship, whichever number is greater. “This means if your location has a capacity for 1,000 people, you could have up to 100 people now in an indoor worship service,” said Henry.

Up to 50 people are permitted in live theatres, banquet halls and restaurants, and liquor service is allowed until midnight rather than 10 p.m. — something that is key for many late-night restaurants, bars and pubs in the summer, said Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association. “The big change for us will be going back to be able to have 50-person events in restaurants and restaurants being open and serve to midnight. Those two will make a big difference.”

Outdoor gatherings remain at 50 for organized events involving friends and family, people whose immunization status you know, but people no longer have to be seated “so it has more flexibility to have a small wedding outside, for example,” said Henry.

Movie theatres are opening with limited capacity with titles in Greater Victoria that include Peter Rabbit 2, In The Heights, Cruella, and The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.

Bill Lewis of the Magnolia Hotel in downtown Victoria said although the announcement was expected “it’s still obviously great news.” People should now have “the confidence to plan and book summer holidays,” he said. Lewis said there’s already been an uptick in bookings for July and August.

The Magnolia was among the hotels that took advantage of Destination Greater Victoria’s $75 credits for local customers. Those Island deals are expected to expand to travellers from throughout the province.

Restrictions on non-essential out-of-province travel remain. “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,” said Horgan.

The next stage of reopening is scheduled for July 1 at the earliest, to allow health officials to gauge the effect of the changes.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

WHAT’S ALLOWED AS OF JUNE 15

PERSONAL GATHERINGS

• Outdoor personal gatherings up to 50 people (birthday parties, backyard BBQs, block parties).

• Indoor personal gatherings up to five people or one other household. Indoor gathering restrictions haven’t changed and people are urged to keep them small.

• Playdates are allowed.

ORGANIZED EVENTS

• Indoor seated organized gatherings up to 50 people with a COVID-19 safety plan.

• Consultation begins for next steps on indoor and outdoor organized gatherings.

TRAVEL

• Travel restrictions within the province are lifted.

• Recreational travel allowed within B.C.

• B.C. Transit and B.C. Ferries can offer increased service as needed.

• Out-of-province non-essential travel restriction continues.

BUSINESSES

• Liquor service extended to midnight from 10 p.m.

• Banquet halls can operate with limited capacity under a COVID-19 safety plan.

WORKPLACES

• Continued return to the workplace.

• Small, in-person meetings allowed.

SPORTS AND EXERCISE

• Indoor high-intensity group exercise allowed with reduced capacity.

• Indoor games and practices allowed for adult and youth group/team sports.

• Up to 50 spectators allowed at outdoor events.

• Spectators are still not allowed at any indoor sport activities.

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