Revised COVID-19 safety measures for post-secondary institutions in British Columbia include mandatory masks in indoor settings, but students will not be required to provide proof of vaccination in order to attend class.
At a press conference on Tuesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a return to mandatory masks in indoor public spaces.
The mask order will apply to all indoor public areas at university campuses, including lobbies, hallways, stairwells, elevators, classrooms and labs.
Students living in on-campus housing will also require proof of vaccination. There will also be a proof-of-vaccine requirement for some non-essential services and activities.
Proof of vaccination will be required at on-campus indoor venues such as gyms, nightclubs, restaurants and a variety of indoor events.
Officials said further guidance is being developed in the coming days.
When asked if universities can mandate vaccinations, Henry said colleges and universities have the option of requiring faculty and staff to be immunized, but “the short answer is, for students, no.”
Henry said they don’t believe there is a need to mandate vaccinations for students to receive in-class education, given other safety measures such as assigned seating and wearing masks when required.
“I will say that we know that the in-classroom setting is not the risky setting and it’s incredibly important that we don’t put barriers in place for people receiving education, and that includes post-secondary education,” she said.
One exception is health sciences students who will need to be immunized since they spend time in health-care settings.
Michael Byers, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia, said he will not teach in a lecture room unless there is a vaccine mandate for students.
“I’m confident that both the science and the law support me on this,” Byers wrote.
— With files from Richard Zussman and The Canadian Press