Explainer: Phase Two of B.C.’s Covid-19 Restart Plan

The province relaxed its social distancing requirements this week, but it’s not business as usual yet

Health Minister Adrian Dix and Chief Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provide an update on COVID-19 on April 3, 2020

Chief Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provide an update on COVID-19 on April 3, 2020. (Flickr/ Province of British Columbia.)

With phase two of B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan in effect, businesses and services around the province have reopened their doors. Citizens have been given permission to congregate in groups of six or less, most elementary schools are expecting some students back in September, and overnight camping will be permitted again starting in June.

This announcement has excited British Columbians eager to get out of the house and regain a sense of normalcy, but it’s important to understand the new provincial requirements that are in place during this transitory time. Here’s the deal.

Before reopening, all businesses need to have a COVID-19 safety plan that’s easily accessible to customers, employees, and public health officials. Under WorkSafe B.C.’s new health and safety protocol and Canada’s Public Health and Safety Guidelines, these plans must detail the measures an employer has taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in their workplace. All employers have received a COVID-19 safety plan template, workplace posters, information on cleaning and hygiene practices, and guidance on the selection and use of masks to help them through this process.

There are six steps to the plan: Assess the risk at your workplace, implement measures to reduce the risk, develop policies, develop communication plans and training, monitor your workplace and update your plans as needed, and assess and address risk from resuming operations.

Employers are encouraged to keep everyone at least six feet apart, possibly “by implementing work-from-home schedules or rescheduling some work tasks,” posting occupancy limits, or putting a cap on how many employees can be in a break room at once.

WorkSafe B.C. also suggests “creating pods of workers who work together exclusively to minimize the risk of broad transmission throughout the workplace.”

If physical distance can not be maintained in the workplace, people may need to be separated by partitions or plexiglass barriers.

Employees will be expected to adhere to hand-washing and surface-cleaning policies, and employers will be expected to provide them with adequate and accessible handwashing facilities.

They will also need to “remove any unnecessary tools or equipment that may elevate the risk of transmission, including items like coffee makers and shared utensils and plates.”

“Employers must involve frontline workers, joint health and safety committees, and supervisors in identifying protocols for their workplace,” reads WorkSafe B.C.’s website. “You do not need a formal plan in place to begin operation, but are expected to develop it while protecting the safety of your workers.”

Social gatherings with up to six close friends and family members from separate households will now be allowed, but health officials are urging citizens to stay careful with one another. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, you are still expected to self-isolate for 14 days.

Immunocompromised people and friends of immunocompromised people should be particularly careful about the people they expose themselves to.

On Tuesday, Dr. Bonnie Henry told the media that there could be a spike in cases as phase two begins, and Justin Trudeau announced that the Canada-U.S. border will remain closed until June 21.

In phase three, planned for June to September, people will be able to travel throughout the province again. Hotels, resorts, and parks will reopen. Film sets can operate, some venues and movie theatres will open, and post-secondary students will be able to resume some classes on campus.

However, that’s only if phase two goes well and the curve stays flattened.