Premier John Horgan outlined his government’s four-step re-opening program Tuesday with the caveat that B.C. doesn’t want to “lurch forward only to have to lurch back.”
“It’s been over a year that we asked everyone to do their part by staying apart,” he said. “And today we begin the road of bringing British Columbians back together.”
Horgan said it won’t be done all at once, but slowly, “based on where the science takes us, ensuring all the while that we put safety first.”
“I want to reassure everyone that there is still a lot of anxiety in the community around COVID-19 and that’s appropriate. This is a disease that has taken over 1,600 lives and it’s disrupted all of us for 15 months, and it won’t disappear tomorrow,” he said. “In the past 15 months we’ve been asking you to make sacrifices – we’re going to continue to ask you to make sacrifices for a few more weeks, but the light we’ve been talking about for weeks and weeks now is at hand.”
Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman said Tuesday she thinks the plan is positive, if done carefully. It will be important to see how people conducted themselves over the Victoria Day long weekend, she noted. “It’s not over yet.”
“The virus and the pandemic situation is not over yet. We still need to adhere to the health and safety precautions that are in place,” Huberman said. “We also don’t know what other variants are going to be at play in the future. We’re hearing about another type of variant from India and the UK that is more transmissible and so we still need to be cautious how we interact and interface with people.”
Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman. (File photo)
Horgan said recreational travel across the province will be allowed by mid-June and people will be able to go to the movies or enjoy a sporting event indoors, and fitness classes as well, if all goes according to plan.
Step three is aimed for early July, and step four later in the summer. “Of course at that time we would be able to hold large indoor and outdoor gatherings, we’ll be returning to what will be close to normal based on where we’ve been for the past 15 months.”
“By Canada Day we can look forward to a safe and positive summer for everyone,” he said.
Businesses will also receive new guidelines moving into step three, Horgan said. “Step four, of course, is further down the road and we’ll leave that for another day.”
The first step began Tuesday with the so-called “circuit breaker” restrictions that were imposed six weeks ago being lifted, permitting in-door dining at restaurants and pubs, or enjoying a backyard barbeque with friends.
“The people who want to return to their place of worship, they can see that just around the corner. For people who want to see family members they haven’t seen for a while, that too is just weeks away,” Horgan said. But international travel will have to wait on federal direction, he said, “and I look forward to those discussions with my colleagues at the premiers’ table as well as with the prime minister.”
Huberman said for the most part local businesses were “very excited” to hear the plan, but there is some anxiety as well.
“Certainly it isn’t a plan where it’s like a flick of a light switch, where everything becomes open. It’s done carefully – it has to be done that way.”