Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following the latest update on the COVID-19 response in the province during a press conference from the rose garden at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday June 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

B.C. premier eyes Phase Three of COVID-19 restart plan for ‘sometime next week’

This could allow for internal travel restrictions to be lifted, John Horgan says

B.C.’s premier is hoping the province can enter into Phase Three of its COVID-19 restart plan by as early as next week.

Premier John Horgan told reporters during a news conference in Victoria on Wednesday (June 17) that he himself has started looking to book a summer vacation within the province for sometime in the next few months.

“Although the risk of the pandemic has not left us [and] COVID-19 remains in British Columbia and people have to remain vigilant, we are in a place where we can start talking about, what does the future look like?” Horgan said.

The premier said if health officials determine it is safe to enter Phase Three, he hopes that includes a lift on internal travel restrictions to help boost the hurting tourism sector.

“We’re very concerned about our international borders and I’m very grateful that the federal government renewed border restrictions until near the end of July, but when it comes to British Columbians and Canadians travelling this summer in B.C, I’m hopeful that we have record numbers, because we need that.”

As of Thursday (June 18), B.C. had recorded 2,775 cases of the novel coronavirus. A total of 168 people have died from the respiratory illness, while 2,422 have fully recovered.

COVID-19: Here’s a phase-by-phase look at how B.C. hopes to reopen parts of society

B.C. officially entered Phase Two the Monday after May long weekend, allowing for campgrounds to start taking reservations again and restaurants to reopen to dine-in guests, among other restrictions being lifted.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said that B.C. won’t move into the next phase until the daily number of new test-positive cases continues to trend downward and maintains at a reasonable low.

Since some restrictions were eased, B.C. has recorded a few minor bumps along the way – particularly as people work to interpret some of the guidelines for physical distancing. In one instance, 15 people who attended the same 30-person gathering tested positive for the novel coronavirus in early June.

A week later, a confirmed case at an unidentified fast-food restaurant was a noted “warning” on how contagious the virus is, Henry said at the time.

B.C. care homes continue to remain the hotspots of concern, with two outbreaks declared this week in the Fraser Health Authority.

Health officials are expected to release new model numbers next week.

Even if B.C. enters the next phase, Henry has repeatedly told British Columbians to prepare for a different summer than ever before – one that involves an indefinite ban on gatherings of more than 50 people and “bigger spaces with fewer faces.”


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ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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