Holdout province British Columbia has finally floated a timeframe for dropping its mask mandate and vaccine passport, “at least for the spring and summer months ahead.”
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Thursday that B.C. would be lifting its mask mandate for most settings at 12:01 AM PST on Friday, excluding high-risk health environments such as doctor’s offices and healthcare settings.
The lifting of masks extends to schools from kindergarten to grade 12 but will not come into effect until students return from spring break. For most public schools in the province, the break runs from March 13-28.
Henry added that “in many workplaces, masks will still be required. They just will no longer be mandated in those areas.”
“Masks continue to be encouraged in some of those settings where we have to get close to other people, and we can’t necessarily avoid it, and things like public transit and on B.C. Ferries, but they’re no longer, as I said, mandated under an order.”
As for the province’s vaccine passport, Henry announced that the program is set to be lifted on April 8, “assuming that our conditions continue to improve.”
Henry said she would also be repealing the order that requires post-secondary students who live in residence to be vaccinated.
“And workplaces will transition back to this requirement rather than having the broader communicable disease plans in place,” she said.
As for the vaccine mandate originally slated for private-sector healthcare professionals, Henry said she would be working with individual licensing colleges moving forward to determine how and whether it will apply.
“So yes, this is different from our original vision, which would be people not being able to practice if they were not vaccinated by March 24,” Henry admitted. “We’ve been working through the specifics with each individual college and based on the risks within each profession.”
Henry began her announcement by congratulating the province’s higher-than-90% vaccination rate for people over 12, saying she was able to consider lifting restrictions thanks to them “stepping up and doing what we needed to do.”
“Our approach has always been to only have the minimum necessary restrictions to keep people safe and to prevent the transmission, particularly to those who are more susceptible to severe illness with COVID-19,” Henry said. “It is finding that balance. I am incredibly grateful to the millions of people throughout our province for your willingness and support in adopting our COVID-19 safety measures. Your efforts combined with these high vaccination rates have saved countless lives.”
“It’s a good place for us to be and I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to continue this path at least for the spring and summer months ahead.”