British Columbia will be moving into Step 3 of the BC Restart Program on July 1.

The criteria set by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Health Adrian Dix to move to the third tier of the Restart Program were to have at least 70% of the 18+ population vaccinated with one dose, as well as low case counts and declining COVID-19 hospitalizations.

As of June 24, 77.5% of all adults in BC and 76% of those twelve and older have now received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with a second dose having been administered to 25.9% of all adults and 24.2% of those twelve and older. 

“Vaccination rates have continued to go up, relative to other jurisdictions, extraordinarily well,” said Premier Horgan at a press conference June 29.

“Cases are dropping, 29 cases today… these outcomes are a direct result of the efforts that all of us have made as British Columbians to take a global pandemic as seriously as we should, follow the direction and guidance of public health officials and take care of each other.”  

New COVID-19 cases have consistently been trending downward, with Merritt recording zero new cases of the novel coronavirus from June 13 to June 19, the second time in three reporting periods. The number of people in the ICU due to complications from COVID-19 has also been decreasing.  

Once the province enters Step 3, life will take a further step towards pre-pandemic normalcy as restrictions surrounding activities are reduced. 

Personal gatherings will once again be permitted as usual, both indoors and outdoors, as will sleepovers. 

Capacities will increase at indoor and outdoor organized gatherings provided there is a COVID-19 safety plan in place, this will include fairs and festivals which will now be able to operate for the first time in more than a year. 

In Step 2, province-wide travel was allowed, which eliminated the restrictions keeping British Columbians from travelling from one health region to another, most notably the Fraser Health region which consistently sees the highest number of COVID-19 case numbers. In Step 3, recreational Canada-wide travel will be reinstated for BC residents. 

Businesses will see a much-anticipated reprieve with no group limits on indoor and outdoor dining, a lifting of liquor service restrictions and a return to business for casinos and nightclubs, with limited capacity. Businesses must operate based on a new sector COVID-19 Safety Plan. 

Employees will continue to return to the workplace and seminars and bigger meetings will be allowed, although workplaces must also operate based on a new sector COVID-19 Safety Plan.

Indoor fitness classes will be returning on July 1, at the usual capacity. Team sports will also return to normal, with limited indoor spectators. 

Perhaps most significant is the fact that masks and face coverings will move from mandatory to recommended, at the discretion of the business or organization. Masks have been required in almost every setting, indoors and outdoors since November of last year. 

“I am so proud, so proud to be a British Columbian based on how all of us have responded over the past 16 months,” said Horgan.