By LAURA KEIL
A new order from B.C.’s provincial health officer will require individuals to show proof they are vaccinated to access many social and recreational activities, including visiting restaurants, starting Sept 13th.
Access to indoor ticketed sporting events, indoor and patio dining in restaurants, fitness centres, casinos, and indoor organized events like conferences and weddings will require people age 12 and older to show proof they are vaccinated.
“Vaccines are our ticket to putting this pandemic behind us,” said Premier John Horgan. “I call on all eligible unvaccinated British Columbians to roll up their sleeves to stop the spread, and help protect themselves, their loved ones and the people in their community.”
The Province is launching a new “BC Vaccine Card” to simplify the process. B.C. residents will be able to access their vaccination data online and show it to businesses via their phones, alongside government ID to prove their identity.
One vaccine dose will be required for specified settings starting Sept 13th and two doses by Oct. 24. As of Aug. 19th, 76 per cent of eligible people in the Prince George local health area—which includes Mackenzie and the Robson Valley—had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 65 per cent were fully vaccinated.
The Province is also putting off a move to Step 4 of re-opening as it manages a resurgence of cases. British Columbia has one of the strongest vaccination rates in Canada with 75 per cent of eligible people now fully vaccinated and 82.5 per cent with at least one dose, but case counts have swung upward in the past month, driven by the Delta variant and unvaccinated people. The Province says the vaccine card will encourage people to get vaccinated and give confidence to fully vaccinated people that those around them are also protected.
“I am grateful to every single person who has taken the time to receive their COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer. “Not only are vaccines very, very safe, but they provide protection to you, to those who are closest to you—your loved ones—and your community, and allow us to get back to our much needed social interactions and connections.”
Henry says people who are not fully vaccinated make up 90 per cent of new cases and 93 per cent of hospitalizations over the past month.
In a press conference Monday, Premier Horgan said in their consultations with the business community, with restauranteurs, the hospitality sector, sporting events and cultural events, business leaders wanted to ensure they can operate without customers being fearful of coming into contact with people who can spread COVID-19. He stressed the measures are being enforced in high-risk discretionary environments, and no such rule will be applied to employees in workplaces. However, workplaces will have the ability to work out their own rules regarding vaccines and masks.
Premier Horgan also mentioned that they are in close contact with other jurisdictions that are taking similar measures, like in Quebec.
“British Columbians need to know that this is the first time anything like this has ever been tried,” Premier Horgan said. “There may be bumps along the way, but we’re very confident.
He said Health Minister Adrian Dix has been working with Citizen’s Services throughout the summer to make sure the vaccine apps can be ready to go in September.
“Dr. Henry and her team have been making sure that we’re doing this in a way that keeps everyone fully apprised of the state of play as we go forward.”
The Province says a secure weblink will be provided and publicized before Sept. 13, where people can confidentially access their BC Vaccine Card. Individuals will be able to save a copy to their phone to show it when entering or using designated businesses and events. The Province says people who can’t access their card online will be provided an alternative option.
“Our B.C. vaccine card is an essential interim action until we transition to a federally-compliant proof of vaccine,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.
The measures will be active through to Jan. 31, 2022, and can be extended.
The measures set out above do not apply to K-12 schools (public and independent) and before-and-after school programs for students. Student-only events and activities within K-to-12 public and independent schools and before and after school programs are excluded from providing a proof of vaccine as they will be covered by specific guidelines for school and child care settings. In addition to the continuation of indoor mask requirements for all K-12 staff, visitors and students in grades 4 to 12, changes to the health and safety measures also include the ability for health authorities to introduce additional regional measures specific to individual schools or school districts in instances where community transmission rates are higher.
The Province says there will be greater opportunities for school sports and extracurricular activities, continued increased ventilation and improvements in schools, and daily cleaning and disinfecting protocols, along with a continued focus on hand hygiene. Students will continue to be required to complete daily health checks and stay home when feeling sick. Research by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) last year noted a significant impact on students from remote learning, including interrupted learning, increased stress, decreased connection, increased loneliness among others. Studies by the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health Authorities showed that in-class schools were not a significant source of COVID-19 transmission. The vaccination measures do apply however to large indoor school events (theatre, concerts) attended by parents, family and/or the public.
Proof of vaccination will also be required for people visiting from outside of B.C. using a provincially/territorially recognized official record alongside valid government ID from the jurisdiction. For individuals visiting from outside of Canada, they will be required to show their proof of vaccination used to enter the country and their passport.
Full list where proof of vaccination will be required:
* indoor ticketed sporting events
* indoor concerts
* indoor theatre/dance/symphony events
* restaurants (indoor and patio dining)
* night clubs
* movie theatres
* fitness centres/gyms (excluding youth rec sport)
* businesses offering indoor high-intensity group exercise activities
* organized indoor events (eg. weddings, parties, conferences, meetings, workshops)
* discretionary organized indoor group recreational classes and activities
* Individual businesses or event organizers may implement these rules earlier.
Upcoming vaccination clinics
THURS. AUG 26 Drop-in COVID clinics Valemount Health Centre, 1445 5th Avenue, 2 pm to 4:15 pm.
WED. AUG. 25, Drop-in COVID clinics McBride Health Centre, 1126-5th Avenue, 9 am to 11 am
THURS. SEPT 8 Drop-in COVID clinics McBride Health Centre, 1126-5th Avenue, 9am to 11am.