VICTORIA -- New data released by the provincial government Tuesday indicates that B.C. is reopening at a safe rate, though the number of new cases is still hovering close to the threshold where a rebound in cases could arise.

According to the latest modelling data, British Columbians have increased their social interactions to roughly 65 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels.

According to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, roughly 60 per cent is the goal, meaning British Columbians have been successful so far in expanding their social bubbles while limiting the spread of the virus.

Moreover, she says that the increase in social interactions has not resulted in a surge of new cases, hospitalizations or deaths related to the virus.

“These models show we are increasing our contacts – and doing it in a safe way,” reads the province’s latest modelling data.

However, health officials estimate that a resurgence in cases could appear if social interactions reach more than 70 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels.

“As expected following some re-opening, models suggest that British Columbia is now closer to a threshold where renewed growth of cases could occur,” reads the modelling.

While estimates place B.C. close to the threshold where a rebound of cases could appear, B.C.’s top doctor says she is confident that British Columbians are unlikely to see a large spike in cases because there has not been a rise in COVID-19 transmission despite the relaxing of health restrictions during phase two of province’s restart plan.

Henry says that the modeling captures an increase in social interactions but does not necessarily account for new health measures that have been put in place.

She notes that while more British Columbians have been going to restaurants or stores, information on social activity may not account for the fact that stores have put in barriers or physical distancing protocols that limit the spread of COVID-19.

According to Henry, the rise in social interaction but relative stability of new COVID-19 cases means that so far, British Columbians have been restarting the province in a safe manner.

“We have eased our health restrictions in a way that let us increase our economic and social interactions in a safe way,” said Henry in a statement.

However, B.C.'s top doctor says that British Columbians must remain cautious as the pandemic continues. 

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Limiting chains of transmission

As the weather improves and B.C. looks to reopen parts of its economy, health officials are urging British Columbians to avoid large groups if possible.

Smaller social bubbles help limit the spread of COVID-19 and make it easier for health-care workers to perform contact tracing if a case of the virus is confirmed.

Health officials say that if someone tests positive for COVID-19, at least 75 per cent of all of their recent contacts must be notified of the exposure within 48-hours, or the virus may spread at an uncontrolled rate.

In order for B.C. to continue to ease health restrictions, contact tracing must be “both complete and prompt,” especially as the province looks towards entering the third phase of its restart plan.

Health officials say that fundamental health measures, including practicing physical distancing, meeting in small groups and staying home if at all unwell remain the best ways of limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Overall, B.C.’s top doctor says that the province has been successful in restarting amid the pandemic. However, she cautions that everyone must remain vigilant as B.C. hovers around the mark where cases could rebound again.  

“We must continue to be 100 per cent all in,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix.

“It’s as important now as it was (at the beginning),” he said.