VANCOUVER — The B.C. government is bringing back its mask mandate for indoor public settings to combat the province’s ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the reintroduction of the mask requirement on Tuesday, pointing to the alarmingly contagious Delta variant and the significant number of B.C. residents who remain unvaccinated.
“This measure is needed to ensure that these indoor settings are as safe as they can be for all of us as we head into the fall,” Henry said.
“This is to address those situations where we are in indoor settings with people who may not yet have been vaccinated.”
The mandate is being implemented by a provincial health officer order that will take effect Wednesday, requiring masks to be worn by anyone 12 and older in most indoor public settings across the province.
“This will include malls, shopping centres, coffee shops, retail and grocery stores, liquor and drug stores, city halls, libraries, community and recreation centres, restaurants, pubs and bars – unless you are seated once you’re at your table,” Henry said.
It also applies to public transit, taxi and ride-sharing vehicles, common areas of sports and fitness centres, and “areas of office buildings where services are provided to the public,” Henry added.
B.C. introduced its previous mask mandate in November 2020 and didn’t lift it until July 1, as the government was entering the third phase of its restart plan. The province has since entered a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases fuelled by the Delta variant.
Henry announced the renewed mask mandate during a news conference on B.C.’s back-to-school plan, which also includes a mask requirement for students in Grade 4 and above and for staff across all grades.
On Monday, the government also revealed the province will soon implement a vaccine passport system for non-essential services and activities, including everything from live sporting events to indoor weddings.
Henry said the mask mandate “will be reassessed” as the proof-of-vaccination system is fully implemented in the coming weeks. Officials are giving the public a grace period of until Sept. 13, at which point residents will be expected to have at least one dose of vaccine to avoid exclusion.
By Oct. 23, full immunization will be required.
“We need to continue to do those things that keep us safe, and one of those things is wearing masks in these indoor settings as rates of transmission in our communities have creeped upwards,” Henry said.
This is a developing story and will be updated.