More restrictions are being lifted in British Columbia on July 1 as the province moves to step 3 of its restart plan, which is a significant step towards normalcy. The state of emergency due to COVID-19 will end on June 30 at 11:59 p.m. With the end of the state of emergency, life for British Columbians and British Columbia businesses will take a significant step towards normal. Those changes include the following:
- Masks will no longer be mandated by public health order. Businesses and other public spaces may require them, and masks will continue to be recommended for those either not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated.
- Indoor and outdoor personal gatherings will return to normal with no cap on the number of people allowed.
- Capacity is increased for organized gatherings. Outdoor events can have as many as 5000 attendees while indoor gatherings can have the greater of either 50 people or 50% of normal capacity. Fairs and Festivals can return to normal operation as long as they have a COVID-19 plan in place.
- Recreational travel across Canada is now permitted.
- Casinos and nightclubs will be able to reopen with COVID-19 measures in place with seating of up to 10 people per table at nightclubs. Dancing remains prohibited at nightclubs.
- All indoor fitness classes are permitted under step 3 at usual capacity and spectators will now be able to watch indoor sports.
- Continued return to the workplace with seminars and bigger meetings now allowed.
- Both businesses and workplaces will transition from a COVID-19 Safety Plan to a Communicable Disease Plan.
Importantly, step 3 begins a transition period in how COVID-19 is managed in workplaces. Workplaces no longer are required to maintain a COVID-19 Safety Plan and instead will transition to communicable disease prevention. WorkSafe has published Guidelines with respect to Communicable disease prevention which can be found here. The purpose of the guideline is to provide information to employers to help them understand their obligation to reduce the risk to their workers from communicable diseases in their workplaces. Generally, that obligation requires employers to implement the following measures:
- Implement policies for supporting workers who have symptoms consistent with a communicable disease and ensuring that these workers are not remaining at the workplace;
- Maintenance of hand-hygiene facilities;
- Routine cleaning process to maintain a clean environment;
- Maintenance of HVAC symptoms;
- Support worker in receiving vaccinations and take into consideration workers who cannot be vaccinated, including seeking advice in implementing policies requiring vaccines in the workplace.
Communicable disease prevention marks a transition from the requirement to have and post a plan and incorporates prevention into the workplaces’ general Occupational Health and Safety Program. The previous COVID-19 protocols are no longer required to be maintained or implemented in workplaces unless advised by Public Health, including physical distancing, barriers and mask use. Employers will need to continue to be vigilant in keeping workplaces safe because COVID-19 and other communicable diseases will still be circulating in our community. Employers will need to maintain the measures to reduce the risk of communicable disease in the workplace. Additionally, employers are required to continue to monitor Public Health guidance for elevated risk and changes in recommendations.
Assuming British Columbia’s progress in fighting COVID-19 continues, BC will move to Step 4 on September 7. The criteria for moving to Step 4 is more than 70% of the 18+ population vaccinated with dose 1 (which has already been achieved), along with low case counts and low COVID-19 hospitalizations. Step 4 will mark a return to normal life, with workplaces fully reopened and a return to normal social contact.
This update was authored by Rose Keith. Have questions regarding the BC’s restart plan and how it effects your workplace? Contact Rose at email@example.com or anyone else listed on the authors page.