Mandatory mask wearing order lifted in B.C.; social restrictions eased | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Mandatory mask wearing order lifted in B.C.; social restrictions eased

British Columbia Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses a press conference at the B.C. legislature in Victoria on Tuesday, September 22, 2020.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
June 29, 2021 - 2:53 PM

B.C. is ready to shed the strictures of pandemic life and people are going to be allowed to mingle.

“Today, I'm happy to announce that on July 1 we will begin step three of our restart plan after the longest public emergency in Canadian history,” an almost jubilant Premier John Horgan said today, June 29.

“I believe it's safe to take the next step forward.”

That means British Columbians can go and cheer for their kids at the soccer game, in the arena and in the gymnasium. Going to a friend's place for dinner is back on and weddings can start being planned again.

“We can go to the theatre, we can go to a concert, we can engage again, in what makes life so important, that's the interaction of people together to get a full flavour of the benefits and bounty of British Columbia, and to share with each other the blessings of being British Columbians,” he said.

Offering some more specifics, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said while the province is cautiously moving forward, there is no longer a need to have orders and directives in place.

As they are removed, they will be replaced with “targeted restrictions  and guidance.”

The provincial state of emergency is also being lifted but some regulations and ticketing powers will still be maintained.

“I also want to make it clear that we are still in a public health emergency. There are still transmissions of this virus globally,” Dr. Henry said. “We still have to monitor and to take additional measures to follow closely what's happening with COVID-19, and the public health emergency will remain in place.”

As of July 1 the orders under the Emergency Programs Act around mask wearing will be lifted.

“That doesn't mean that mask wearing is not important,” she said. “It certainly is.”

Mask wearing will be recommended, not mandatory, in all indoor public spaces for people 12 and over, who are not yet fully immunized.

“That means it is important for us to continue to wear masks in those indoor settings when we're around people that we don't know, and where we not yet have been fully protected,” she said.

“Some people may also continue to choose to wear masks, and that's OK. We need to remember that we all need to go at our own pace and there are some reasons why we may be feel more at risk, or it may be important for us to continue to protect ourselves using masks.”

Also, B.C. is moving toward increasing capacity around organized gatherings, both indoor and outdoor settings, and people from across the country will be welcome, particularly those who've been immunized.

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Province of B.C.

First, the orders around personal gatherings, are going to be lifted.

“It is up to us to decide who we have in our home now. So this is the time where yes if your grandparents and aunties are immunized, they can come over and you can have that family gathering, and hug the grandchildren, if people are protected” she said.

“We know that as we did before this pandemic, if somebody was undergoing medical treatments like cancer treatments, then we need to take those precautions still, and we may want to have smaller gatherings or do them outside, so that we're not putting each other at risk.”

In terms of organized gatherings, health officials are easing restrictions, leaning into the principle that outside is less risky than inside.

For indoor gatherings, up until now, gatherings of up to 50 people have been allowed. As of July 1, it'll be 50 people or 50% capacity, whichever is larger for that venue.

“So if your venue is one that holds a capacity of 50 people, then you can have 50,” Dr. Henry said. “If it's a venue that has 500 people, then 50% capacity would be 250.”

Communicable disease plans will, however, be required.

“Again, we have learned a lot, this virus does not transmit as well outside, particularly in the summer months,” she said.

“And we know that we can have larger gatherings together safely outside.”

For outdoor gatherings, 5,000 people will be the limit.

So if a venue can hold up to 5,000 people you can have 100% capacity. Above 5,000 people, that capacity will be 50%.

“Again, just to give us some time to adjust to having large numbers of people together,” she said. “Indoor wedding ceremonies and events, again, will be very similar to the indoor gatherings.”

For outdoor events like fairs and festivals and even some of the large trade shows, they can return to normal.

“These are events … we are calling flow through events where people can move away from others and keep their distance,” she said. “It's not like being seated right next to somebody or in an enclosed space.”

Again, a communicable disease plan will be required.

Finally, Dr. Henry said, restrictions on religious worship services have been lifted.

“We will be moving again to the guidance that we have created together to serve our faith communities to come back together,” she said.

Also they are removing most of the restrictions in restaurants and bars, bars and pubs.

“So you can determine how many people sit at a table, we're returning to normal liquor, liquor service hours,” she said. “But we still need to have some measures in place in these inside environments. So for now, there's not going to be that socializing between tables and making sure we still have barriers in place where it's where it protects people.”

Also offices and workplaces will continue a gradual return to work.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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