Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a $4B program to top up wages of essential workers.  Resuming elective surgeries in B.C. — and catching up on the backlog — could take two years and cost $250 million, officials said. Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix will provide another COVID-19 update at 3 p.m. PT.  As of Wednesday afternoon, 2,255 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the province.  124 people have died. 74 COVID-19 patients are in hospital, including 19 in intensive care. 1,494 people have recovered. Over 175 residents of Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park tent city have been moved into hotel rooms and community centres.

B.C. is forging ahead with plans to gradually reopen B.C., laying out how it intends to resume elective surgeries and continuing to relay guidelines for people going about their daily lives in coming weeks.

The province on Wednesday announced small gatherings with up to six people will be OK by next weekend.

“This is not a return to normal,” said Horgan, joined by B.C.’s top doctor Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix at a Wednesday news conference. “This is a new normal.”

The premier said the provincial restart will happen in phases, spaced out by two- to four-week time periods. It will begin with allowing small gatherings, like backyard barbecues, as long as those participating aren’t sick or showing any symptoms of COVID-19.

Absent from the announcement was an official reopen date and an exhaustive list of hard-and-fast rules for what British Columbians can and cannot do under the new guidelines. The onus has been left on the public to collectively make choices that will limit regular interactions to below 60 per cent of normal and prevent a resurgence of the virus. 

Minister Dix said British Columbians have proven they are capable of making the right decisions over the past two months.

“British Columbia has imposed fewer rules than other jurisdictions and British Columbians responded, I think, by following those rules to a great degree. The flattening of the curve we’ve seen so far is the success of everybody,” he said Thursday.

Dix warned everyone must still maintain physical distancing, wash their hands regularly and avoid touching their face even as they widen their circle of contacts. Anyone who feels the slightest bit unwell must not leave home.

The federal government announced on Thursday a $4-billion program to top up the wages of essential workers. Provincial governments will contribute $1 billion of the funds and will be in charge of determining which workers receive the help.

WATCH: In time for the long weekend, B.C. will allow gatherings of up to six people

B.C. is easing its COVID-19 restrictions just in time for the long weekend. The province is allowing groups of up to six people to gather. 2:17 Elective surgeries resuming

The province estimates 30,000 non-urgent scheduled surgeries were either postponed or not scheduled in B.C. due to the COVID-19 crisis and 24,000 people could be without a referral to get on a wait list.

“But because of those sacrifices, we can move forward,” Horgan said Thursday. “[Those patients] have been living in pain. Today we will start the process of relieving that pain.”

Postponed elective surgery patients will be contacted in coming days. Surgeries are set to resume by May 18.

A woman sits at Fraserview Golf Course in Vancouver on April 30, 2020. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Getting surgeries back on track will require new operating rooms and new staff, including surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists.

Catching up with all those procedures could take two years and cost at least $250 million in extra funding, the province said Thursday.

READ MORE: How B.C. plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions

Some aspects of life with COVID-19 will not be changing soon, Horgan added. Large gatherings likely won’t be possible until a vaccine is developed, which health officials have said could take up to 18 months.

Non-essential travel plans, including travel within B.C., should be shelved for now as well, the premier said.

WATCH: B.C. Premier John Horgan explains why people should avoid travel — at least for now

Even though COVID-19 restrictions will ease, Premier John Horgan says British Columbians should stay local and enjoy their corner of the province this long weekend. 1:25 New cases top 2,250

The total number of positive cases recorded in B.C. rose to 2,255 on Wednesday. The three additional deaths occurred in long-term care centres.

One was in the Island Health region and the other two were in Vancouver Coastal Health, according to the Ministry of Health.

Nearly 1,500 people have recovered from the disease.

Across B.C., 74 people with COVID-19 are in hospital, 19 of whom are in intensive care.

Oppenheimer Park on the move

At Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park, over 175 tent city residents have been moved into shelter spaces secured in hotels and community centres.

There are still people who need to be moved, however, after the province established a May 9 deadline to empty the park of campers over concerns of COVID-19 transmission.

A man walks past fences built by B.C. Housing in Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver on Wednesday. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Tanya Fader with the Portland Hotel Society said most people are willing to leave.

“At the end of the day, if somebody chooses not to leave, that’s their own personal autonomy and that’s their own personal decision,” said Fader. “We’re not here to force anybody out.”

The province has said if residents of Oppenheimer Park and Victoria’s Topaz Park and Pandora corridor have not left by May 9, enforcement could follow.

Fences are pictured around vacated spaces at Oppenheimer Park in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. (Ben Nelms/CBC) Top COVID-19 stories today Gatherings of up to 6 people to be allowed again in B.C., just in time for the long weekend. School districts across B.C. are drafting plans to reopen, with teachers returning to classrooms as early as next week in some parts of the province. Canucks and B.C.’s top doctor show interest in hosting NHL games in Vancouver. The Vancouver Whitecaps said it has ordered 2 players to self-quarantine for 14 days after violating club and league orders to abide by B.C. physical distancing guidelines. Women in Bella Coola and other rural communities still must travel to give birth, despite COVID-19 restrictions. The T&T Supermarket chain will bring in a mandatory mask policy for shoppers Monday, making it one of the first retailers in Ottawa to take that step to halt the spread of COVID-19. An appendicitis patient is encouraging others to seek medical care if they’re sick or injured — something, she says, she should have done much earlier than she did. 

Important reminders:

Health officials widely agree the most important thing you can do to prevent coronavirus and other illnesses is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. 

The World Health Organization said more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 infections are estimated to be mild.

What’s happening elsewhere in Canada

As of 4:30 a.m. PT on Thursday, Canada had 63,496 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, with provinces and territories listing 28,184 of those cases as resolved or recovered. A CBC News tally of COVID-19-related deaths based on provincial figures, regional health data and CBC’s reporting listed 4,348 deaths in Canada, with another two abroad.

The numbers are not a complete picture, as they don’t account for people who haven’t been tested, those being investigated as a potential case and people still waiting for test results. 

For a look at what’s happening across the country and the world, check the CBC interactive case tracker.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Stay home. Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority or 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

Find information about COVID-19 from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

Non-medical information about COVID-19 is available in B.C. from 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. PT, seven days a week at 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319).

What can I do to protect myself?

Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. Keep at least two metres away from people who are sick. When outside the home, keep two metres away from other people. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Masks won’t fully protect you from infection, but can help prevent you from infecting others.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government’s website.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at

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