COVID-19: Are we ready? B.C.’s indoor mask policy relaxed for Canada Day

Public health officials say while the mandate is officially lifted, people should continue to wear masks until they’re certain those around them are doubly vaccinated

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Not necessarily masking, but masking if necessary.

Starting July 1, B.C. is cancelling its mandatory masking requirement for indoor spaces, as the number of new COVID-19 cases dropped to just 29 on Monday, and vaccination rates rise — in B.C., 78 per cent have a single dose, more than 30 per cent have two.

“That doesn’t mean mask-wearing isn’t important,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “It certainly is.”

She also suggested wearing masks if you are going to be around strangers because you don’t know if they are fully vaccinated, meaning 14 days after having getting a second jab.

Not everyone feels the same, so “we all need to respect people’s comfort levels,” she said.

And Premier John Horgan said he would continue to wear a mask on a bus, ferry or plane, calling the relaxation of the policy that has been mandated since November a “recommendation, not direction.”

The Glowbal group of restaurants will continue to require staff be masked despite the easing of the mandate, “for a least a couple, few more weeks,” said owner Emad Yacoub. “But we may not be running after customers who go to the washroom without a mask to tell them they have to put one on.

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“I’m so sick and tired of the mask,” he said. “I would love to take my mask off.”

But he said he will continue to wear one and require them of his staff as a precaution in case other staff or customers have vulnerable family members at home.

People enjoying patio life at The Fill Station on Queen St. E. on Saturday, June 19, 2021.
People enjoying patio life at The Fill Station on Queen St. E. on Saturday, June 19, 2021. Photo by Jack Boland /Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

When the mandate for wearing masks in indoor public places was implemented in mid-November, many British Columbians were already voluntarily wearing them. The mandate applied to malls, coffee shops, grocery stores, liquor and drug stores, airports, city halls, libraries, community and recreation centres, places of worship, common areas of office buildings, court houses, hospitals, hotels, sport and fitness centres, common areas of post-secondary institutions and non-profit organizations, as well as on public transit and in taxis. The fine for non-compliance was $230, and Henry said tickets can still be issued.

TransLink announced on Tuesday that masks won’t be mandatory starting Thursday, but will still be “recommended” on Metro Vancouver’s public transit system.

“Customers are encouraged to continue wearing masks on transit as a precautionary measure to protect themselves, fellow customers, and our employees,” TransLink said in a release.

“We will continue to follow our safe operating guidelines, which includes increased cleaning, improved sanitization measures, and thorough ventilation on our vehicles.”

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Signage will gradually be changed, beginning Thursday.

Restaurants Canada said each of its member operators will decide on their own whether to require the continued wearing of masks, said Mark von Schellwitz, Western Canada’s vice-president.

“Restaurants can’t mandate the wearing of masks, but they certainly can encourage it,” he said. “We expect a gradual return to normal.”

Patrick Johnson, secretary-treasurer for the United Food and Commercial Workers in B.C., said he would recommend customers practise patience when it comes to shopping in grocery stores and remember that it is a workplace as well as a store.

He said the union is reaching out to store operators to determine plans for the lifting of pandemic protocols to ensure they are carried out safely.

slazaruk@postmedia.com

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