The B.C. government announced Tuesday a gradual reopening for gyms and fitness centres on Jan. 20.
The reopening will be based on strict COVID-19 safety plans, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a media briefing.
These plans include occupancy limits based on seven metres squared per person, up to a maximum of 25 people per space, Henry added.
The vaccine card will still be required to enter gyms or fitness centres. The province considers those with two COVID-19 shots (or one Johnson & Johnson shot) as fully vaccinated.
Masks must be worn at all times with the exception of when someone is exercising, Henry said but if people can keep their masks on when exercising, that is best.
There will be no changes for the B.C. vaccine card program, Henry said Tuesday.
The province has extended all other restrictions, including the 50-per-cent capacity limit for all venues, and keeping bars and clubs closed, until they are reviewed Feb. 16.
On Monday, the B.C. government quietly ordered the closure of gyms, fitness centres, bars and other facilities until further notice. The restriction had been set to expire at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. It was not clear at the time whether the order would be reinstated in some form at the Tuesday afternoon briefing, creating confusion for business owners.
Henry apologized for that confusion at the top of the media briefing on Tuesday.
Local gym owner, Courtney Dickson, general manager of Richmond Sports and Fitness said she is elated with the province’s announcement Tuesday.
She said she won’t have to implement too many changes in her gym going forward to comply with the new measures.
“We’ve already had enhanced cleaning that has never minimized since the start,” she said. “We’ve already had masks being enforced when not exercising, and we will promote that to our members to keep it on even when exercising whenever possible, and to make sure the distancing happens.”
Henry also said she changed the order on Monday around school staff and vaccinations and all school staff must disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status.
Vaccinations are not required to work in schools, and school districts have been given the ability to implement a vaccine mandate if needed.
The order will allow health officials to understand what schools and districts are at the highest risk of COVID, Henry added.
“It is still a serious issue and we are still in a pandemic,” Henry said, “as much as we want to be over it.”
She said vaccines are still the safest and most effective tool against getting seriously ill and being hospitalized.
B.C. set another new record on Monday with more than 800 people in hospitals around the province.
However, only four of those people were admitted to the ICU, bringing that total to 99.
– with files from Safeeya Pirani