B.C. residents will find out more after the Labour Day weekend about the COVID-19 vaccination cards due to be imposed on Sept. 13, but some details are emerging in what B.C.’s top doctor says is the latest strategy to get more people immunized.
After bringing back masks for indoor public areas and announcing a policy reversal to embrace proof of vaccination for restaurants, pubs, gyms and other recreational activities, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also imposed new home gathering restrictions on the Northern Health region this week.
With infections declining this spring, Tuesday, Sept. 7 was to be the day B.C. entered its “stage four” reopening, but the unexpected August surge of the Delta variant leaves Henry with increased vaccine protection the only strategy to get ready for fall and the return of school. That includes more than 100 drop-in clinics at community events and businesses to make vaccination convenient.
“I don’t think we’ve maxed out the people who are willing to be vaccinated,” Henry said Sept. 2. “We have changed our strategies. We’ve had multiple different ways of trying to approach people. That is one of the reasons that we’ve gone to the vaccine card, it is just another strategy to nudge those people who have been complacent, and I think that’s a little bit part of it in some of the areas across the North, where we seem to have managed it and had very low rates of COVID for quite a few weeks.”
B.C. is seeing its most coronavirus transmission in the urban Interior and Fraser health regions, but the vast and thinly populated Northern Health Authority is seeing pockets of infection in Prince George and communities along Highway 16 to the west, where vaccination rates have risen more slowly than urban B.C. Site C dam and pipeline camps have also had outbreaks this summer.
Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix confirmed that they will explain the vaccine passport program on Tuesday, Sept. 7, before it comes into effect the following Monday. Henry clarified that while proof of vaccination will be required for indoor sporting events, restaurants, pubs and other non-essential public spaces, it won’t be needed for fast food or takeout service.
Henry noted that mask use has never been required for shared areas of condo buildings, which are private residences that set their own rules. Mask use is for public spaces in retail and service businesses, not offices and other spaces where customer access is by invitation only.