COVID-19 in B.C.: Vaccine card to be required to attend social and recreational events and businesses in province

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      With COVID-19 case numbers continually rising across the province, B.C. will probably postpone its next phase of reopening while implementing new measures to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.  

      B.C. Premier John Horgan, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Health Minister Adrian Dix held a news conference today (August 23) to announce that vaccinations will be required to attend certain events and businesses.

      Horgan said that Henry and Dix have advised it is “quite unlikely” for the province to advance from Step 3 to 4 of the B.C. Restart Plan in September, due to an increase in cases and the spread of the Delta variant. (September 7 was the earliest date for the next and final phase of reopening.)

      Henry said that over the past month, almost 90 percent of all cases and over 93 percent of hospitalized cases have been among those who are not fully vaccinated.

      She said that there are about 28 cases per 100,000 unvaccinated people, compared to two per 100,000 vaccinated—in other words, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is 10 times higher for those who are unvaccinated than those who are vaccinated, she said.

      B.C. Premier John Horgan
      Province of British Columbia

      When Henry and Dix were asked at previous briefings about whether or not vaccinations would be made mandatory, both said that they wouldn't be but those who remained unvaccinated would face consequences.

      Today, Henry announced that she is issuing a new public health officer order to require all individuals to provide proof of vaccination—Horgan called it the B.C. Vaccine Card—to attend specific social and recreational events and businesses.

      Immunization proof will be accessible through a website (with name, date of birth, and personal health number), and an online website link will be provided before September 13. Individuals will be able to save a copy of their proof of vaccination on their mobile phone.

      Those who don’t have a mobile phone or can’t access their proof of vaccination online can contact a call-in centre (more details are to be provided for this option).

      Starting on September 13, British Columbians will need to have a minimum of one dose to access a list of events, businesses, and activities. By October 24, full immunization (at least seven days after receiving a second vaccine dose) will become required for entrance or attendance for the same list.

      These measures will continue until January 31, 2022, with a possibility of extension.

      The list includes:

      • indoor ticketed sporting events;
      • indoor concerts, theatre, dance, and symphony events, and movie theatres;
      • restaurants, including both indoor and patio dining;
      • nightclubs and casinos;
      • fitness centres and gyms, and businesses offering indoor high-intensity group exercise activities (youth recreational sport is excluded);
      • organized indoor events (including weddings, parties, conferences, meetings, and workshops), and indoor group recreational classes and activities.

      Individual businesses or event organizers can also implement these requirements earlier as part of their safety plans.

      Individuals, including those from outside of B.C., will need to provide proof of vaccination along with government ID.

      These measures do not apply to K-12 schools but will apply to post-secondary campuses (Horgan said that details about K-12 and post-secondary schools will be announced tomorrow.)

      Henry said these measures don’t apply to essential services, faith-based services, and retail and grocery stores.

      She added that they are working with the federal government to ensure that the B.C. Vaccine Card will be aligned with the federal vaccine passport that is under development.

      "This is a temporary measure that's getting us through a risky period where we know that people who are unvaccinated are at greater risk of both contracting and spreading this virus," she said.

      For those who cannot be immunized for medical reasons, they won't be able to attend these "discretionary" social and recreational events during this time period of "high risk", Henry explained.  

      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix
      Province of British Columbia

      For today's B.C. COVID-19 update, see this article

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.