British Columbia

British Columbia lifts mask mandate, proof of vaccination to follow

British Columbia has removed the order requiring masks to be worn in all indoor public spaces as of March 11, and the province says that the proof of COVID-19 vaccination requirement is likely to be lifted on April 8.

However, individual businesses will still be allowed to require masks if the owner decides they would like to, and the province says that it will support businesses in those cases. A requirement for workplaces to mandate masks will be lifted as well, but there could be certain situations where people are still required to wear a mask.

RELATED: Ontario removing mask mandates & most other health measures

“Some people and some locations will continue to use masks personally or in their business, and that’s okay. We need to support that,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said, per Global News.

British Columbians have been required to wear masks in indoor public spaces since last summer, and have been required to show proof of vaccination since September.

Industry leaders are cautiously pleased

Greg Wilson, B.C. director of the Retail Council of Canada, said retailers support Henry’s announcement, though they have some concerns.

“I am concerned the moment they announce a change, and that changes are upcoming, they will just stop wearing masks,” Wilson said per Global. He added that some workers and customers will want to continue wearing masks, and that “after the requirement ends, we are going to ask people to remain kind”.

BC Restaurant & Foodservices Association president Ian Tostenson said that restaurants are looking forward to the removal of the indoor mask mandate because the hospitality sector relies heavily on face-to-face interaction and “a smile”.

Meanwhile, Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees of B.C., told CTV News that the timing of the change will be a boon to businesses. “Getting rid of masks and vaccine verification doesn’t necessarily seem like a whole lot, but those were the last restrictions impeding our businesses, so people are really excited,” he said.

However, Tostenson said that there are mixed feelings about dropping the vaccine card.

RELATED: Ontario may be done with proof of vaccination, but not all restaurants are

While some restaurant owners find the card difficult to enforce and of limited use, considering they only factor in two shots, others intend to keep the card for longer to provide confidence to the public during this transition period.

“It does provide an insurance. And it’s not (a) big thing. I think if it stays for a while, that wouldn’t be a bad thing,” Tostenson said, per Global.