British Columbia has dropped the requirement to wear masks in indoor public spaces.
Starting on July 1, wearing a mask in an indoor public space will be recommended, but not mandatory, for those who are not fully vaccinated.
Those who are fully vaccinated, having waited 14 days since receiving a second dose, do not have to wear a mask in indoor public spaces.
“Some people may choose to continue to wear a mask and that’s OK – we all need to go at our own pace,” reads a presentation from the province.
“The Face Coverings Order under the Emergency Program Act will be lifted and no proof of vaccination will be needed.”
The change is part of the province’s transition to Step 3 of its COVID-19 restart plan.
On Thursday, the provincial state of emergency, which went into effect at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be dropped.
Outdoor events will be able to have up to 5,000 people or 50 per cent capacity, whichever is greater.
Indoor events can host up to 50 people or 50 per cent capacity, whichever is greater.
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The province is replacing many public health orders with targeted restrictions and guidance and supported by communicable disease plans for a range of settings, businesses, and activities.
The change includes getting rid of any capacity limits on social gatherings either indoors or outdoors at someone’s home.
As of Thursday, restaurants and pubs will no longer have limits on the number of diners, but people will still not be allowed to mingle with those at other tables.
B.C. is taking the next step as immunization levels continue to climb and case counts continue to decline.
More than 78 per cent of people aged 18 and older have had their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and over 30 per cent have received two doses.
The seven-day moving average for new cases in B.C. is 61, the lowest since August.
The removal of the mask mandate will be met with some resistance. Many retailers and restaurants will continue to encourage staff and customers to wear masks indoors.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says at this point the risk in the community is changing dramatically, particularly for people who are immunized.
The province is of the opinion is it is important to take away orders as soon as possible.
Even though the provincial state of emergency will be lifted, ticketing powers will be maintained to enforce remaining COVID-related rules.
A move to Step 3 also includes:
* All sectors must follow communicable disease prevention guidance from WorkSafeBC, and drop COVID-19 safety plans
* Sleepovers are now allowed
* Fairs and festivals can operate when following communicable disease prevention guidance
* Canada-wide recreational travel will be encouraged
* No group limit for indoor and outdoor dining
* Liquor service restrictions lifted
* Casinos and nightclubs can operate with a limited capacity
* All indoor fitness classes allowed, usual capacity
* Limited indoor spectators allowed
— With files from Jon Azpiri and The Canadian Press