B.C. to end mask mandate Friday, vaccine card program next month

B.C. to end mask mandate Friday, vaccine card program next month
British Columbian's public health officer was scheduled to hold a COVID-19 briefing today after indicating earlier this month that more restrictions could be lifted by mid-March.

B.C. is dropping its mask mandate and vaccine card program as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to drop to pre-Omicron levels in the province.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the major shift in health policy Thursday, saying that the mask ordinance would be discontinued as of Friday, while the vaccine card program will end Friday, April 8.

The policy shift means people will not be required to wear a mask in indoor public spaces, a rule that has been in place since near the start of the pandemic in 2020.

It also means that students will no longer be required to wear masks in schools after the spring break.

“We are now transitioning to using some of our available tools some of the time, because we are in a lower-risk place,” said Henry.

She added that masking will remain a requirement for some higher-risk settings, such as health care facilities and doctors’ offices.

Despite dropping the public indoor mask requirement, Henry encouraged those who feel they need the additional layer of protection to continue wearing them.

“While masks are no longer required or mandated under an order as of tomorrow, some people in some locations will and continue to use masks personally or in their business, and that’s OK. We need to support that, we need to recognize that we all have our own risks and our own vulnerabilities,” she said.

BC Ferries confirmed that masks would no longer be mandatory at terminals and onboard vessels, but said that it recommends people still use masks.

In addition to those public health orders being repealed, the province is also restoring full long-term care home visitation on March 18 and lifting capacity limits on faith gatherings. Requirements for being fully vaccinated and providing a negative COVID-19 test will still be in place for care home visitors.

Regulated health professionals will now be required to report their vaccination status by March 31 instead of a mandate that they are vaccinated. The province will collect data on who is vaccinated and patients will give informed consent.

With the focus of B.C.’s COVID-19 response now shifting to personal responsibility over government mandates, officials will continue to urge people to monitor their symptoms and get tested when necessary, practice good hygiene, stay home if they’re sick and get vaccinated if they haven’t already.

It comes as cases and hospitalizations have dropped to December 2021 levels, before the Omicron-fueled wave hit.

Viral loads in wastewater samples taken in the Fraser Health Authority and Vancouver Coastal Health Authority also show a rapid decline since their peak in January.

Henry has also called B.C. one of the most vaccinated jurisdictions in the world, with 90.7 per cent — more than 4.5 million — of eligible people five and older receiving a first dose and 86.6 per cent, or 4.3 million, receiving a second dose.

“I want to assure you that I feel confident about what we are doing and that we are in a place to do this now,” she said. “These decisions are grounded in science and the data about what’s happening in our communities.”

This is a developing story. Original story follows.

British Columbian’s public health officer is scheduled to hold a COVID-19 briefing today after indicating earlier this month that more restrictions could be lifted by mid-March.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said last week the province was better positioned to consider removing pandemic restrictions before students begin spring break on Monday. Watch the livestream at 12:30 p.m. here, on CHEK+ or on CHEK TV.

She said hospitalization numbers were down, immunity from vaccines was up and more at-home rapid tests were being distributed.

But Henry has also said there was still a lot of the virus circulating in some parts of the province.

Unlike some other provinces, B.C. still requires masks in indoor public places and vaccine cards must be shown.

Ontario, for example, has already lifted all capacity limits and proof of vaccination, while it plans to end mask mandates in most places like restaurants on March 21.

Yesterday, B.C. health officials in a statement to the media Wednesday reported 274 new COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths, including five in the Island Health region.

Of the new cases, 77 were in Island Health, 48 were in Fraser Health, 36 were in Vancouver Coastal Health, 29 were in Northern Health and 84 were in Interior Health.

The number of confirmed cases in B.C. is now at while the death toll stands at 2,929.

CHEK News will be broadcasting the live update

The Canadian Press


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