B.C. health officials announced Thursday that the province will remove its order requiring masks in all indoor public spaces as of 12:01 a.m. Friday, and that the proof of COVID-19 vaccination requirement will be potentially lifted on April 8.
Individual businesses will still be permitted and supported by provincial health to require masks if the owners decide to. A requirement for workplaces to mandate masks will be lifted as well, but there could be certain situations where people are still required to wear a mask.
“Some people and some locations will continue to use masks personally or in their business, and that’s okay. We need to support that,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.
Masks will no longer be required on public transit, but both BC Transit and TransLink can decide to put in system-wide mandates.
For schools, the mask mandate will be lifted in the K-to-12 system following the March break, she added.
The removal of the mask mandate signals a substantial shift from the government requiring the public to obey certain rules to allowing individuals to make their own decisions on masking.
British Columbians have been required to wear masks in indoor, public spaces since last summer, and have been required to show proof of vaccination since September.
The province now has a double-vaccination rate of more than 93 per cent for adults.
In addition, faith gatherings will be moving to 100 per cent capacity at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Individual congregations can decide whether to put mask rules in place, Henry said.
On March 18, long-term care homes will be allowed to have more visitors. Vaccine cards and rapid testing will continue to be in place.
Overnight summer camps for kids are also no longer required to submit safety plans as of 12:01 a.m. Friday and can plan for a normal return for campers.
B.C. aims to remove the requirement to show a vaccine card on April 8, Henry said.
On the same date, the province will remove all current COVID-19 work safety plans and transition back to communicable disease plans.
The post-secondary residence vaccine requirement will also be lifted then.
Meanwhile, regulated health professionals will still be required to report vaccination status by March 31.
“The decisions Dr. Henry is making is based on the best science we have. But the pandemic does not end tomorrow,” Dix said.
Greg Wilson, B.C. director of the Retail Council of Canada, said retailers support Henry’s announcement, though they have some concerns.
“I am concerned the moment they announce a change, and that changes are upcoming, they will just stop wearing masks,” Wilson said.
Some retail workers and customers will want to continue wearing masks, he added, and that must be supported by the public.
“After the requirement ends, we are going to ask people to remain kind.”
BC Restaurant & Foodservices Association president Ian Tostenson said Wednesday restaurants are looking forward to a removal of the indoor mask mandate, because the hospitality sector relies heavily on “a smile” and face-to-face interaction.
On a dropping of the vaccine card, he said there are mixed feelings. Some restaurant owners find the card cumbersome and useless, considering they only factor in two shots, while others believe keeping the card for a bit longer will provide confidence to the public during this transition period.
“It does provide an insurance. And it’s not (a) big thing. I think if it stays for a while, that wouldn’t be a bad thing,” Tostenson said.
Warch full March 10, 2022 B.C. COVID-19 briefing: