OTTAWA- The Canadian province of British Columbia will unveil its plan to start reopening its economy on Wednesday, as new coronavirus cases dwindle and other parts of the country, including Quebec and Manitoba, begin to loosen their restrictions.
The Pacific coast province reported Canada’s first death from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, and its first case of community transmission, but reported only 8 new cases on Tuesday.
British Columbia Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry are expected to unveil details of the plan at a news conference at 3 p.m. local time (2200 GMT).
British Columbia has a population of roughly 5 million people and shares a border with Washington state, where the first major outbreak in the United States occurred.
Non-essential businesses have been largely shuttered since mid-March as officials urge people to stay at home to slow the spread of the outbreak, but in recent weeks many of Canada’s 10 provinces have begun to gradually reopen their economies.
Quebec, the worst hit province, began to restart on Monday, but pushed back plans to reopen the city of Montreal, citing health concerns.
As of Wednesday, there were 62,458 reported coronavirus cases in Canada and 4,111 deaths, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam told an Ottawa news conference, adding Canada’s epidemic continues to slow. On Tuesday, there were 3,915 deaths and 61,159 positive diagnoses.
It is “extremely important” that any reopening plan include social distancing measures, Tam told reporters.
“If you are dealing with a virus that is actually quite difficult to…deal with, those distancing measures and your hand-hygiene measures are absolutely fundamental as people are opening up businesses,” she said.
More than 7.5 million people have applied for emergency unemployment assistance in Canada as of Tuesday, government data showed on Wednesday, with benefit payouts totaling more than C$28.5 billion ($20.17 billion) thus far. Statistics Canada will release its April employment data on Friday.