People walk, sit on benches, bike, fly kites along the seawall in English Bay in Vancouver, B.C. Tuesday, March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

British Columbians can double their ‘pandemic bubble’ mid-May, but no large gatherings

Physical distancing must remain for those outside the newly expanded bubbles

British Columbians who have remained isolated for months can begin to slightly broaden their social circles as of mid-May.

On Wednesday, B.C. officials unveiled their “Go-Forward Strategy,” which included a decrease in measures that have stifled social lives, the economy – and hopefully, the virus – since implementation in March.

British Columbians will be allowed to mingle with groups of around two to six people outside of their own household.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday that as long as COVID-19 cases continue to decrease, people can “double their bubble,” officials said, and hug people within that small group of approximately a half-dozen people.

Those who are sick must continue to self-isolate, and people at higher risk due to age or pre-existing conditions, must decide for themselves if they wish to broaden their “pandemic bubble” in coming weeks.

“People have to make those choice. If your mom has a compromised immune system, it’s best to keep that distance,” Premier John Horgan said at a press conference two months after he first declared a state of emergency in B.C.

However, health officials said that physical distancing measures must continue for people outside of a new bubble, even as people can begin to hang out with neighbours and others. The province is trying to keep interactions to about 60 per cent of pre-COVID times.

As the weather gets warmer, British Columbians will have more access to the outdoors as of the middle of May. Provincial parks will reopen most day-use facilities as May 14, as could any municipally operated parks, beaches and outdoor spaces that are currently closed. Overnight camping and the rest of the day-use facilities could return in June, while movie theatres and symphonies are scheduled to open up in July.

Recreation and sports opportunities can restart, officials said, although low-contact sports are preferable.

READ MORE: B.C. prepares to restart more retail, services, offices in May

Nevertheless, many aspects of pre-COVID life will not return for some time.

Restrictions on gatherings of 50 or more people including concerts, conventions and sporting events with a live audience “are here to stay,” Horgan said.

“Small social gatherings with physical distancing will be allowed.”

International travel will continue to be restricted to essential crossings only, and the 14-day quarantine requirement will remain in force until

“When we see evidence that the curve is flattened… that cases in other jurisdictions are reduced to a place we’re comfortable with, we’ll start to look at opening the borders in the months ahead,” Horgan sad.

Non-essential to other places in B.C., and even throughout Canada, could be a possibility later into the summer, he noted. Face masks are currently required on flights in Canada

“The market will decide some of this. If there are no flights, there’s not going to be a lot of people getting on planes,” Horgan said.

“These are personal choice people are going to have to make.”

As of Wednesday, B.C. has had 2,255 total test positive cases and 124 deaths due to COVID-19. A total of 1,494 people have now recovered.

READ MORE: B.C. records three new COVID-19 deaths as officials get ready to unveil reopening plan


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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