NEWS
05/06/2020 20:27 EDT | Updated 05/07/2020 09:34 EDT

British Columbia's Reopening Plan Includes When We Can Hug Our Loved Ones Again

But people are still encouraged to make smart, safe decisions about social contact.

Everyone in British Columbia who’s been longing for a hug since the COVID-19 pandemic began will soon get their wish — with some limitations.

Marking 100 days since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the province, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced B.C.’s multi-phase reopening plan for the coming weeks and months.

“We have been successful as a province, extraordinarily successful by comparison to other jurisdictions in the world,” Horgan told reporters during a news conference  Wednesday. “But we can’t give up the ground we’ve made.” 

The curve has been flattening for some time in the province. While outbreaks continue to propel growth in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta, B.C. has seen its case rates sharply decline over the past month. On Tuesday, the province reported only eight new cases of COVID-19.

Chad Hipolito/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Premier John Horgan is joined by chief public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix as they discuss reopening the province's economy in phases in response to the COVID-19 pandemic during a press conference in Victoria, B.C., on May 6, 2020.

“All of this has been accomplished without a full lockdown,” Horgan said in a press conference Wednesday, acknowledging that B.C. has not shut down many services like other provinces.  

Wednesday’s reopening plan featured information on  restaurants reopening, dental offices firing up their chairs  and when people can finally see a barber to fix those regrettable quarantine haircuts. 

But one point in the phased reopening stood out to everyone longing for just the slightest bit of human connection — we’re going to get to hug people again.

Yes, an honest-to-goodness hug. With another human being. Who possibly doesn’t even live in the same home as you.

Hinterhaus Productions via Getty Images
Hugs between close friends and family will soon be allowed in B.C. 

Honestly, I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

Of course, B.C. residents are not all suddenly being encouraged to hug every stranger we see on the street or partake in massive group hugs. But the reopening plan does mean that people can start slowly and safely to expand their social networks a little bit when “phase two” kicks off in mid-May. 

And unlike other provinces, like New Brunswick, which pioneered the idea of “doubling your bubble” where families can socialize with a single other family, B.C.’s rules are a bit looser.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Bonnie Henry says it comes down to common sense as to how much and with whom you expand your circle.  

“If you expand your circle, you need to do it thoughtfully and you need to understand the risk in your family,” she said. 

The province says small indoor and outdoor gatherings of two to six people with friends and family are ok, so long as everyone is asymptomatic and not immunocompromised. Larger gatherings under 50 people will be allowed in restaurants, retailers and religious spaces so long as social distancing is maintained.

Horgan outlined playdates and small gatherings with friends both indoors and outdoors as activities that could return in the coming weeks, so long as they’re done in small numbers.

“Keep the gatherings small, and use your common sense,” he said. 

And as long as you’re doing it safely and smartly, the option to hug and socialize with close family and friends will even be a reality in time for Mother’s Day.

Keep the gatherings small, and use your common sense.B.C. Premier John Horgan

“If your circle has been tight, then hug your mom,” Horgan said. “But if your mom has a compromised immune system, it’s best to keep that distance.” 

Horgan warned that it’s not going to be a sudden return to normal, but that people in the province can slowly start rebuilding social contacts. 

“It won’t be the flipping of a switch. We’ll be proceeding carefully bit by bit, one step at a time,” he said. “If we lose this discipline, everything we’ve worked for will be lost.” 

So B.C., get ready to love again, get ready to hug again. 

But keep in mind Henry’s mantra throughout the pandemic — “be kind, be calm, and be safe” about it.

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