VICTORIA -- British Columbians who celebrate religious holidays will be able to participate in small, indoor gatherings this spring.

Health officials announced Thursday that the province would be opening up a one-time variance for small, indoor religious services between March 28 and May 13.

"That was selected with very careful consideration for the upcoming holidays for various faiths across the province," said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

"This represents a first step of a gradual reopening of indoor faith and spiritual gatherings in British Columbia," she said.

The services can host a maximum of 50 people, or 10 per cent of the total worship space capacity, whichever is smaller.

B.C.'s full list of safety requirements for indoor services can be found on the province's COVID-19 website here.

Upcoming religious holidays include Easter, Ramadan and Passover. 

B.C.'s top doctor says that indoor services may be allowed to continue past the initial spring window, though much depends on how COVID-19 transmission persists in the province.

"We are hopeful that this one-time indoor variance can be extended soon after the trial period that we have until May 13, but of course it's based on the pandemic and the epidemiological (status) of the province," said Henry.

At the same time, the variance may be cut short if transmission escalates significantly in B.C.

Henry stresses that home gatherings, such as an Easter Sunday dinner, are still prohibited at this time. No one should be inviting people over to their homes if they do not live in the same household, she noted. 

Thursday's announcement comes two days after health officials announced that outdoor religious gatherings would be allowed to restart in B.C.

Outdoor faith services can currently include up to 50 people, plus 50 more if they remain in their vehicles.

Masks and physical distancing are still required at outdoor services. Choirs are prohibited, though worship groups of up to five are allowed to play music.

Participants are also asked not to socialize with other members of the congregation before, during or after the service and contact information must be collected.