Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)

MLA Shypitka welcomes provincial restart plan

The provincial restart plan lifting pandemic related restrictions through a gradual four-step process is “positive” news, according to Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka.

The restart plan, announced by Premier John Horgan on Tuesday, May 25, signalled an end of the ‘circuit-breaker’ restrictions that have been in place for the last six weeks, and outlines four stages that gradually loosens COVID-19 restrictions relating to social gatherings, in-person dining, sports activities and more.

“Any kind of move to restart the economy, to get us back to some sort of normalcy…people are going to welcome that,” said Shypitka. “So overall, I think people are happy about it.”

While the plan has multiple stages and attached dates for implementation, COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations and vaccination rates will determine whether the province moves forward with each additional step.

The provincial seven-day rolling average has been steadily decreasing since early April, as daily case counts reached just over 1,100 at the peak of the third wave. As of May 25, that rolling seven-day average has dropped down to 328.4.

The same trend follows to Interior Health — the seven day rolling average peaked in early April at just over 100 cases, but have down dropped down to 39.7.

Provincially, B.C. has administered 2.97 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine while Interior Health has reached over 454,000 doses.

“I do see the sacrifices we’ve made, I see the case counts come down, I see the vaccination start to roll out, a little later than what we wanted, but albeit it’s good news,” Shypitka said.

“When we see 60 per cent of people that are above 19 [years old] that have had their first dose now, I think we’re seeing some progress there and with that comes getting back to some sort of normal activities again. That includes saving our businesses and our tourism sector. I’m still fearful for some of those guys caught in the cracks, like our guide outfitters and our fishing guides that still will not see any kind of international travel for some time yet.

“So there’s still a lot of work to be done, and I think that work has to be done with the provincial government in assisting these folks who are falling through the cracks.”

The restart plan immediately lifts restrictions on in-person dining at restaurants and allows indoor social visits in homes. The province is eyeing June 15 for moving to the second step, which would allow outdoor and indoor gatherings of up to 50 people and the resumption of indoor team sports activities.

Gradual relaxation of restrictions will continue into the third step set for July 1, with the final step of the plan set for Sept. 7.

“British Columbians have sacrificed so much over the last 15 months to help keep people and our communities safe,” said Premier John Horgan, in a news release announcing the plan. “We have made tremendous strides with our vaccination program, and we are now in a position where we can move forward with a plan to slowly bring us back together. As we have done throughout this pandemic, we will be closely following the guidance of public health and supporting people and businesses as we take the next steps in putting this pandemic behind us.”