British Columbia Government Announces “B.C.’s Restart Plan” to Reopen Province

On Wednesday, May 6, 2020, Premier John Horgan announced “B.C.’s Restart Plan”, which outlines British Columbia’s four-phase formal plan to gradually reopen the province.

Key Principles Going Forward

B.C. health authorities have emphasized staying home while sick, avoiding handshakes or hugs outside family, increasing environmental cleaning at home and work, and practicing good hygiene and continued physical distancing at home, in the community, and at work. They have also suggested only getting together in small groups of around 2 to 6 people when seeing friends and family that do not share the same household.

All public health orders made by the government of British Columbia (“British Columbia” or the “Province”) can be accessed here and once each phase is set into motion, it is expected that the corresponding public health order will be available on that page. In some instances, existing orders will be modified or lifted before certain businesses may reopen.

Industry specific guidelines have been published for businesses such as hotels and retail food and grocery stores. British Columbia health authorities have also generally explained that reducing risk at work involves physical distancing measures, engineering controls (such as physical barriers), administrative controls for the workplace, and personal protective equipment. Employers can find more information on the Province’s COVID-19 Go-Forward Management Strategy, the COVID-19 Go-Forward Management Checklist, and from WorkSafeBC.

After re-opening, all employers must demonstrate they can operate safely and can ensure the safety of their employees at work as required under the Workers Compensation Act. WorkSafeBC will work with industry associations to ensure the direction and guidance they provide to their members meet the requirements set out by the Provincial Health Officer.

Employers will be required to:

Sectors that have operated during the pandemic may need to update their COVID-19 Safe Plans to comply with the new Health and Safety Guidelines, best practices and resources.

B.C.’s Restart Plan

British Columbia’s  cautious restart will be a step-by-step process designed to ensure the effort the Province has expended so far in suppressing infections does not go to waste. Various organizational sectors must, in order to move forward with re-opening, must develop enhanced safety protocols aligned with the Public Health and Safety Guidelines.

Businesses and organizations that are not covered by a Provincial Health Officer order may re-open or continue to operate but they will be expected to adopt and implement sector safety plans as they are finalized.

British Columbia’s Restart Plan will proceed as follows:

Phase one is currently where the Province is situated within its “Restart Plan”. Essential services, which have continued their operations during COVID-19 include:

Essential service industries have developed safe operation plans in consultation with WorkSafeBC and in compliance with provincial public health orders.

Commencing in Mid-May, under enhanced protocols, the Province will open up several previously closed businesses and services, including:

Sectors that were ordered closed will be working with WorkSafeBC to develop plans to reopen safely. WorkSafeBC and the public health office is developing industry-specific guidance to ensure workplaces reopen safely. Businesses will be required to comply with provincial health officer’s orders and occupational health and safety guidance provided by WorkSafeBC and the Province.

Reopening of Parks (May 14, 2020)

Beginning on May 14, 2020, those BC Parks, recreation sites and trails that can accommodate physical distancing will reopen for day use only. This will include day-use sites and protected areas. Parks and recreation sites that can safely provide existing service levels, such as garbage disposal and washroom facilities, will do so. Some areas and facilities remain closed, including playgrounds, picnic shelters and visitor centres. Businesses that operate in connection with Provincial Parks may wish to refer to our Outdoor/Adventure group.

Beginning in June, if transmission rates remain low or in decline, restrictions on the following will be lifted:

Reopening of Schools

An announcement on a phased approach to resume in-class instruction for the month of June, which will not be mandatory, will be made in the coming weeks. However, this will not be a return to normal as “regular classrooms” will likely not return until September.

Date to be determined. Phase four will only occur upon the earlier of a wide vaccination, “community” immunity or broad successful treatments. Upon at least one being met, the following will no longer be restricted:

  • activities requiring large gatherings, such as:
    • conventions;
    • live audience professional sports; and
    • concerts; and
  • international tourism.

The timing of a safe restart of night clubs, casinos and bars is a more complicated consideration and there has not been a firm timeline as to when night clubs, casinos and bars are expected to reopen.

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