VICTORIA, B.C. – British Columbia will enter step three of the reopening plan on Thursday.

The province says the decision comes after nearly 80 per cent of adults have received their first vaccine dose, and COVID-19 case counts continuing to decline.

“British Columbians have stepped up at every stage throughout this pandemic,” said Premier John Horgan. “We’ve helped our neighbours stay safe, we’ve sacrificed time with friends and family, and we have diligently registered to get vaccinated. We’ve now reached a point in our vaccination efforts when we can begin to remove restrictions. Let’s continue to respect everyone’s comfort level as we safely take another step toward putting this pandemic behind us.”

Advancing to Step 3 will also mark the end to the longest provincial state of emergency in B.C.’s history. The emergency will be lifted on June 30th at 11:59 p.m.

B.C.’s public health emergency will remain in effect during Step 3 to support amended public health orders from the provincial health officer (PHO), with reduced requirements.

During Step 3, businesses will gradually transition to new communicable disease plans, with guidelines for these plans released by WorkSafeBC on June 28th. These guidelines were developed in consultation with public health, and businesses will continue to be supported by WorkSafeBC and the PHO as they transition.

These plans will continue to include physical barriers in many business and retail settings. Capacity limits, formal health screening tests and directional arrows, as well as other physical distancing measures, will no longer be required. However, they may still be used during this transition period.

“Step 3 is a major milestone for British Columbians,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation.

“We can now resume more of the activities and occasions we enjoy, workplaces and businesses will have more flexibility, and it opens the door for more economic activity as we transition into summer. We are able to take this step because of the work everyone is doing to keep themselves and each other safe.”

The province is asking Canadians travelling to B.C. from outside of the province to plan ahead and be respectful while visiting communities, especially smaller and rural towns, as well as Indigenous communities.

Masks will be recommended in indoor public spaces for people 12 and older who are not fully vaccinated.

Since the launch of BC’s Restart plan, more than 250 meetings and discussions have taken place as part of the government’s ongoing engagement, said the province.

The majority of the meetings were with industry organizations that represent thousands of employers and tens of thousands of employees.

The four-step restart plan was designed based on data and guidance from the public health team led by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer. Progressing to each step of the plan will be measured by the number of people vaccinated, COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations and deaths and other key public health metrics.

“Because of the efforts of people in B.C., we continue to see a significant decline in new cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations and deaths as the number of people who are fully immunized goes up,” Henry said.

“Public health teams throughout the province are closely watching the case data to ensure we maintain this positive momentum as we safely and gradually move into Step 3 of our Restart plan.”