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May 7, 2020

Yesterday, Premier John Horgan announced the Province's four phase plan to re-open our economy. After a very challenging two months, we need a way forward that prioritizes the health of British Columbians while enabling our economy to recover. We know that the road to economic recovery will be long and difficult, requiring innovation, cooperation, and resiliency. But we have hope and find confidence in knowing that resiliency is in the makeup and fabric of our Vancouver heritage.

On April 6, 1886, the City of Vancouver incorporated but less than three months later, the Great Vancouver Fire swept through the city, and within 45 minutes it destroyed the better part of the 1,000 buildings that then comprised the city. Our current global health crisis is different from the Great Fire, but it has caused many of the same effects. Individuals and businesses working together for the collective good and striving together for a brighter future. In the years that followed the Great Fire many notable achievements and advancements occurred including the foundation of B.C.'s public university system, the Heather Pavilion of the Vancouver General Hospital, the Vancouver Stock Exchange, along with iconic companies like Purdy's and H.Y. Louie. In our current circumstances, recovery still feels like a long way off but together, we are beginning the work of reinventing and reimagining a stronger region, together.

BRITISH COLUMBIA'S RESTART PLAN

B.C.'s Restart Plan is a four phased strategy that outlines the gradual re-starting of the B.C. economy. The Plan focuses on personal care, social interaction and economic activity. 

Phase 1 is our current phase, in which essential services and many non-essential businesses that could operate safely, remain open. As businesses look to reopen their doors, they will be required to demonstrate an ability to operate safely and adhere to new public health and safety guidelines. Industry associations are expected to lead the transition back to work by developing and implementing safe and approved operations plans that are in line with the Public Health and Safety Guidelines.

Phase 2 is expected to start in mid-May. During this period some businesses will be reopened under enhanced protocols: health services - including elective surgeries and medically-related services such as dentistry, physiotherapy, registered massage therapy, chiropractors, etc., the retail sector, hair salons, restaurants and pubs, office-based worksites and child care services.

Phase 3 will extend from June to September if the transmission rate remains low or declines. In this phase further reopening measures will be taken as hotels, spas, camping grounds and businesses in the film industry begin to reopen their doors. 

Phase 4 , the final phase, can only begin once we have achieved wide vaccination, "community" immunity, or broad successful treatments for COVID-19. At this point, restrictions that limit activities involving large gatherings such as conventions, live audience professional sports, concerts, and international tourism will be relaxed.  

In addition to the four phases of reopening the economy, the plan outlines core guidelines of implementing safe organizational practices to inform the cautious transition to the "new normal".   

  • Businesses are required to have clear policies that ensure workers do not come to the workplace if they have any cold or flu-like symptoms and should implement sick day policies for the coming 12 months to support individual staff being off sick more often or working safely at home. 
  • Businesses are required to clean "high touch" areas in workplace and retail outlets more frequently and ensure hand sanitizer is available at entrances or around workplaces and shops. 
  • Where possible, office-based organisations should encourage staff to work from home part of the time or stagger shifts or work hours, forego in person meetings and create smaller teams working together virtually.
  • Retail organizations are recommended to implement strategies that ensure "sensible" social distancing (1-2 meters) and a "sensible" volume of customers in the retail space.
  • Personal service organizations (barbers, hair salons, personal service establishments) are recommended to require appointments and bookings to manage customer flows, use non medical masks between customers while being served, and use of physical barriers such as plex-glass where practical
  • Businesses should focus on accommodating higher-risk populations, including those 65+ and those with underlying medical conditions, as it pertains to work space, more flexible hours of work or shopping or working at home options.

The plan maintains restrictions on non-essential travel and international tourism, emphasizes a zero tolerance for illness at the workplace, maintains restrictions of large social gatherings of 50 people or more (this does not apply to work or retail box stores, large grocery stores or malls) and maintains the restriction of activities requiring large gatherings such as conventions, live audience professional sports or concerts. 

As we start on this road to re-open our economy and while a lot of uncertainty still remains, know that the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade will continue to be here to help the community rebuild. Let us continue to be inspired by the collective strength and resiliency of our forebears, with an eye towards the brighter and more prosperous future of our region.

You can read more about B,C.'s Restart Plan here. Employers and retailers are encouraged to refer to the BC COVID-19 Go-Forward Management Strategy and the BC COVID-19 Go-Forward Management Checklist for further detailed information. 

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