Not until September will B.C. catch Alberta on the COVID freedom front | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Not until September will B.C. catch Alberta on the COVID freedom front

Limits on how many people can dine together won't be lifted until July 1, at the earliest, despite B.C. having already passed its target vaccination rate of 70 per cent.
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June 23, 2021 - 7:30 AM

Despite having higher infection and lower vaccination rates than B.C., Albertans will throw off all COVID restrictions on July 1 — next Thursday.

That won’t happen until at least Sept. 7 in B.C.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has set three key criteria to reach before easing restrictions. Those are increased vaccination rates along with lower cases and hospitalization rates.

While she’s set clear vaccination targets, she’s been pretty vague on the other two factors.

B.C. started Stage 1 of its Restart program on May 25. The target was to have at least 60 per cent of adults over the age of 18 vaccinated along with “stable case counts and COVID-19 hospitalizations.”

On that day, vaccination rates hit 64.6 per cent and there were 289 new cases and 301 people in hospital.

Still, B.C. residents were able to have outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people and indoor gatherings with five. Non-essential travel between health regions was still banned as were organized indoor gatherings.

Last week, on June 15, the province moved into Stage 2, which allows for outdoor personal gatherings of up to 50 people but still only five indoors. Organized indoor gatherings can sit up to 50 people and the travel restrictions are gone.

The vaccination target rate was at least 65 per cent along with “declining case counts and COVID-19 hospitalizations.”

As of June 15, there were 108 new cases, hospitalizations had dropped to 139 and 76.1% of adults were vaccinated.

That vaccination rate already surpasses the target of 70 per cent set for Stage 3, which won’t happen until at least July 1. That’s the same vaccination target for Stage 4, set for Sept. 7 at the earliest.

So, what new and wonderful things will B.C. residents be allowed to do July 1, assuming the “low case counts and declining COVID-19 hospitalizations” targets are met?

Masks will no longer be required in public indoor spaces but will be recommended and “careful social contact” will be allowed. There won’t be any limits on personal indoor or outdoor gatherings. The number of people who can attend organized indoor and outdoor gatherings will be increased but there’s no mention, yet, of what the new number will be.

Canada-wide recreation travel will be considered OK, although it’s not banned now.

Casinos and nightclubs can reopen, limits will be removed on the number of people who can dine together and liquor service restrictions will be removed.

Indoor fitness classes will be allowed at the usual capacities and there can be a limited number of indoor spectators.

At the same time, all COVID restrictions will be removed in Alberta because more than 70 per cent of residents over age 12 have been vaccinated (the number for those over 12 and over is currently 75.8 per cent in B.C.).

Even when B.C. hits Stage 4 of its Restart program on Sept. 7 (as long as there are “low case counts and low COVID-19 hospitalizations”) there will still be restrictions.

By that time, masks in public indoor spaces will be by personal choice rather than 'recommended'.

There will be “increased capacity at large organized gatherings, like a concert.” The B.C. Centre for Disease Control guidelines don’t say whether maximum capacity will be allowed. The same applies to spectators at indoor and outdoor sporting events.

Businesses will be required to operate under new but, at this time, unspecified COVID guidelines. Last week Dr. Henry said some precautions against all communicable diseases, such as barriers, will likely remain in place.

While the B.C. vaccination rate is well past the 70 per cent target set for July 1, that doesn’t mean all areas of the province are at that level.

In the Interior Health region, only 12 of 23 Community Health Service Areas were above 70 per cent as of June 18 for adults. Enderby was at the bottom at 58 per cent while Kamloops Centre South topped the rankings at 78 per cent.

See full details on the B.C. Restart plan here.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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