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Proof of vaccination requirement could come to Interior Health earlier than rest of B.C.

Click to play video: 'B.C. to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to access certain businesses, events' B.C. to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to access certain businesses, events
B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlined the new COVID-19 vaccine certificate program that will be required for people to access various social, recreational and discretionary businesses and events. Starting Sept. 13, people will need to have at least one dose, with entry requiring those 12 and older to have been fully vaccinated seven days after second dose. The businesses and events will include indoor ticketed sporting events and concerts, indoor and patio dining in restaurants, gyms, organized events like weddings and other events like choirs – Aug 23, 2021

The province’s COVID-19 hot spot, the B.C. Interior, could see proof of vaccination requirements to access social and recreational events, earlier than the rest of B.C.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said the Interior Health region could be a test zone to iron out the kinks of B.C.’s new vaccine card initiative.

“There is some discretion of areas of high transmission, and Interior Health is one of them, where we will be having discussions about whether we can put some of these measures in place sooner, rather than later,” Henry said on Monday.

Read more: B.C. becomes third province to require proof of vaccination, starting Sept. 13

“We may use it as an opportunity to test some of the vaccine card initiatives. We’ve been having some early conversations about that, and that should allow us to have some of these gatherings and events happen more safely in those areas where we already have higher transmission.”

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B.C. announced on Monday that beginning Sept. 13, one dose of vaccine will be required to access a broad range of social, recreational and discretionary events and businesses and by Oct. 24, two doses will be required.

Click to play video: 'B.C. health minister says majority of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations are unvaccinated' B.C. health minister says majority of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations are unvaccinated
B.C. health minister says majority of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations are unvaccinated – Aug 23, 2021

Only vaccinated people will be able to attend indoor ticketed sporting events, indoor concerts, indoor theatre/dance/symphony events, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos, movie theatres, fitness centres, and organized indoor events like weddings, parties, conferences and meetings.

“Vaccines are our ticket to putting this pandemic behind us,” said Premier John Horgan.

“So I call on all eligible unvaccinated British Columbians to roll up their sleeves to stop the spread, and help protect themselves, their loved ones, and the people in their community. British Columbia has one of the strongest vaccination rates in Canada with 75% of eligible people now fully vaccinated, but there is still more work to do.”

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Read more: Canada getting vaccine passport for international travel

A website will be publicized prior to Sept. 13 where British Columbians can access their proof of vaccination and save a copy to their phone.

Henry acknowledged that enforcement will be a challenge as conflict could arise if staff must refuse entry to anti-vaxxers.

“These are the challenging things that we’ve been facing throughout this pandemic, but it is very much the same thing as looking at proof of identification of age to get into a bar or nightclub, for example,” Henry said.

Click to play video: 'B.C. top doctor says only exemption for vaccine certificate is kids under 12, talks out of province visitors' B.C. top doctor says only exemption for vaccine certificate is kids under 12, talks out of province visitors
B.C. top doctor says only exemption for vaccine certificate is kids under 12, talks out of province visitors – Aug 23, 2021

“We will be working to support businesses in how to manage this. We are making it as simple as we possibly can to have a confidential way of determining people’s immunization status.”

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Meanwhile, all residents living in the Interior Health region remain under targeted restrictions to curb the fourth wave of the pandemic, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.

Masks are mandatory in all indoor public spaces for people over the age of 12 and high-intensity indoor group exercise is banned.

Read more: Ontario COVID-19 vaccine passport would be ‘useful’: Ottawa’s top doctor

Gathering restrictions also took effect in the Interior Health region on Monday.

Gatherings in vacation rentals are limited to five guests or one additional household. Indoor personal gatherings are limited to ten guests or one other household.

Outdoor personal gatherings (e.g. birthday parties, backyard BBQs, block parties) are limited to no more than 50 people. Organized indoor gatherings (e.g. weddings, funerals, seated events) are limited to 50 people, and outdoors gatherings are limited to 100 people, both requiring a COVID-19 safety plan.

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B.C. to release regular COVID-19 case data by vaccination status – Aug 21, 2021

The measures are in place until the end of September.

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“We know that a lot of the transmission is happening in indoor social gatherings, so private gatherings especially. Making sure that we do take that step of getting vaccinated now, and it will have more impact in the last little while,” Henry said.

As of Friday, there were 3,504 active cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health, three times higher than Lower Mainland health authorities.

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