No regional differences in lifting COVID-19 restrictions in B.C.

Phase 3 set for mid-June

UPDATE 6:10 p.m.

In an update Wednesday afternoon, the BC Centre for Disease Control says there are now zero active COVID-19 cases being tracked in the Interior Health region.

ORIGINAL 2:55 p.m.

There remains just one active case of COVID-19 in the entire Interior Health region, but don't expect any regional differences when it comes to lifting provincial measures to help contain the spread of the virus.

On Wednesday, Premier John Horgan said the province has no plans to expedite the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions in areas where the virus is less prevalent.

“The virus is everywhere in British Columbia, there is not one part of the province that is less susceptible to outbreak if we don't follow the directions that have been laid out by public health officials,” he said.

Currently, there remains 214 active cases of the virus across B.C., the large majority of which are in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health regions. The B.C. government continues to not encourage travel within the province, but Horgan said that could change in the coming weeks.

“We're going to do everything we can with an aggressive promotion campaign in the days ahead to encourage people to visit every part of B.C. if they have the time to do so,” he said.

“We have had success in B.C. because people have done this together. While I absolutely understand that people are going to want to go and move around and while I understand that tourism operators want to see that happen, it wasn't that long ago that leaders in tourism-dependant communities were saying stay home. So we can't lose sight of the road we've travelled. We can't just flick a switch and get back to normal.”

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said she expects a move to Phase 3 of loosening restrictions in B.C. by mid-June, and Horgan reiterated this Wednesday.

“I would expect in the middle of June, we're going to be looking at further easing of restrictions and starting into Phase 3 of the restart,” he said. “But I don't want to give people false hope, anything can happen, this is a dynamic virus that has affected different parts of the world differently.”

But when it comes international visitors supporting B.C.'s tourism industry, Horgan says that could be a long ways off.

“International travel is going to be a challenge and we need to get our heads around that, industry is going to need to get their heads around that,” he said. “Having different rules in the north or on the Island or in the Kootenays is not going to change the fact that ... international travel restrictions are going to keep people away from British Columbia.”

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