(Sooke News Mirror file photo)

Sooke takes slow, cautious approach to reopening

Council to begin meeting in person again on May 19; South Island Chambers of Commerce collaborate

Dawn Gibson | Sooke News Mirror

Light is finally starting to glimmer through the heavy COVID-19 cloud, and Sooke will slowly begin to crawl out from shelter.

Following Premier John Horgan’s announcement last week on relaxing some health restrictions, the District of Sooke and the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce are making plans for the “new normal.”

Residents are asked to continue physical distance practices.

Sooke council meetings will continue to be held virtually until May 19, and after that will return to the council chamber, but the chamber will not be open to the public until physical distancing measures and WorkSafeBC requirements can be met.

“I am looking forward to meeting in person again with my colleagues,” Mayor Maja Tait said. “I think Horgan’s announcement brings some optimism, with a cautious, measured approach. It is positive to be able to reconnect with others again.”

ALSO READ: Keep ‘pandemic bubbles’ small, top doctor urges as B.C. prepares to loosen rules

Moving forward as a municipality, small gatherings of two to six people will be allowed, but the district asks residents to keep their social circle small and use caution.

Businesses and services such as retail shops, salons, pubs, art galleries, and restaurants are working on plans for safely re-opening.

“I hope that small businesses, a majority of which have been struggling, will be able to safely reopen, to benefit consumers and sustain the business community,” Tait said.

Schools and childcare facilities are expected to be back in full swing by September, but in coming weeks, children may be able to partially return to school before summer on a voluntary basis. School district officials will still need to discuss further how this will take place.

ALSO READ: Business applicants pour in to Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce’s shop local initiative

Provincial parks will re-open for day use, although play structures will remain closed. Sooke’s regional parks such as Whiffin Spit, Marine Boardwalk, Ed Macgregor, and Sooke Bluffs parks reopened May 1.

As for the future of rec centres and summer activities for youth, plans will depend on further discussions between the Capital Regional District and B.C. Recreation and Parks Association. SEAPARC Leisure Complex is currently being used as a temporary emergency response homeless shelter until June 30.

“We will continue to follow the advice of the provincial health officer, and work in conjunction with neighbouring local governments to be consistent with others in the Capital Region in re-opening our facilities and services,” said Tait.

A few weeks ago, the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce launched the “Buy Now, Redeem Later” online gift card campaign, called BetterBuySooke.ca, which has helped support the many Sooke businesses that have closed their doors or reduced their services because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 60 businesses have signed up for BetterBuySooke.ca. This project will help boost Sooke businesses until they are able to safely reopen.

The Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce has now joined the South Island Prosperity Partnership, which will help chambers of commerce across the region to join forces in creating strategies for recovering economically. The partnership includes Sooke, the West Shore, Saanich Peninsula and Esquimalt Chambers of Commerce.

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