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COVID-19: Plans for reopening B.C. coming soon, say officials
VICTORIA -- With ongoing restrictions putting a dent in the COVID-19 curve, the province's top doctor says some of those restrictions may get eased in the not-so-distant future.
Dr. Bonnie Henry would not set a date for when students might expect to be back in the classroom, but she did say a plan was in the works, and British Columbians could expect details soon.
“The focus will be particularly on the children of essential workers,” Henry said Monday. “And those that need to get back to work as we increase the businesses that are open.”
Also Monday, Quebec announced elementary school students and younger kids will return to the classroom in mid-May, although it’s anticipated class sizes won't exceed 15 students. High schools and universities in Quebec won’t return to the classroom until the fall at the earliest.
As for reopening the economy, Henry says more details are coming soon on that too, but a key is making sure businesses protect their workers and ensure they stay home if they’re sick.
“To ease restrictions, we need to know that businesses will look after their team as well,” said Henry.
Ontario announced Monday its three-phase plan for reopening. It doesn’t set out any concrete timeline and has few specifics, but requires a consistent decrease of new daily cases for two to four weeks before any restrictions are eased.
“This framework is a roadmap, it will guide our collective decision-making,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford. “It lays out the threshold we need to hit.”
Henry said falling COVID-19 case numbers in B.C. are speeding up ongoing plans to introduce a strategy to ease restrictions.
“It's clear evidence that our sustained efforts to follow public health measures are working in B.C.,” said Henry. “Safe physical distancing and self-isolation requirements have slowed the rate of transmission and we're now seeing a decrease in numbers.”
Over the past two days, 50 people in B.C. have tested positive for the disease for a total of 1,998, she said.
Three more people have died and the provincial death toll now is at 103, while 1,190 people have recovered from COVID-19.
Henry said the rate of transmission has slowed and health officials are able to find more links to outbreaks with increased surveillance, which means the time to start easing restrictions is approaching.
“We're getting close to the time where we can open up,” Henry said. “Plans are being developed here in B.C. and have been for the past weeks, but we are taking the time to do it right.”
B.C. is likely to face challenges from spring floods and wildfires that will test physical distancing practises on the front lines as firefighters and flood relief workers are deployed to disaster areas, she said.
Flood watches are already underway in the province's central Interior, where rising waters have prompted dozens of evacuation alerts for rural properties.
“Nobody wants to see a resurgence, so we are watching very carefully,” Henry said. “Our focus is to provide a consistent framework so that different sectors know where they need to operate within.”
With files from the Canadian Press