The province has announced plans to reopen various economic sectors and businesses impacted by COVID-19 in four phases, as top officials look to lift restrictions that have been in place for weeks in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
B.C. Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s top doctor, unveiled the plan on Wednesday, which will see ramped up social and economy activity in stages, all while monitoring public health information relating to COVID-19.
In a few weeks, the province is opening up the second phase of the plan, which will include small social gatherings, resuming elective surgeries and physiotherapy, dentistry, chiropractors, day-use provincial parks, and more.
Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka praised the work done by Dr. Henry to meet the challenges presented by the pandemic as well as the response from British Columbians to stay home and practice social distancing.
“B.C is probably performing better than almost any jurisdiction in the world,” Shypitka said. “We’ve seen the curve flatten and compared to the rest of Canada, we’re doing really good. This is all because of the good work of Dr. Bonnie Henry and of course, all the residents and constituents within all the riders of B.C. who have adhered to the plan and bought into it.
“Now we’re starting to see the payback in dividends.”
The third phase of the plan includes opening additional businesses, services and schools by June if transmission rates remain low or are in decline, according to the province.
The fourth phase, which will include opening up large events such as concerts or stadium sports, likely won’t be implemented until a vaccine is developed.
“Our plan puts safety first. British Columbians have made enormous sacrifices so far, and it’s thanks to them that we’re able to begin to lift some restrictions,” Horgan said, in a news release. “We’ll allow activities to resume as the evidence and experts tell us it is appropriate to do so. By moving carefully and deliberately, we will help British Columbians get to a ‘new normal,’ where more of our social and economic life can resume.”
While Shypitka lauded the way the province has responded to reducing the spread of COVID-19, he noted that specific details about each of the phases to reopen the economy are still unclear.
He cited the example of a restaurant owner, who is facing vague instructions or competing regulations and conditions from organizations such as WorkSafeBC and the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.
“I think the plan itself is good, I just think how they’re implementing it is not well thought out and going to cause a lot of problems,” Shypitka said.
Shypitka also said he’s heard feedback from employers concerned about getting employees and workers back to work who are tapping into the various benefit programs offered by the provincial and federal governments. He added that employers also need additional relief beyond deferring utility bills, suggesting the province put a temporary hold on collecting Provincial Sales Tax to encourage consumer spending.
Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.