Proof of vaccination no longer required to access BC restaurants, theaters, events

Proof of immunization against COVID-19 is no longer required to access restaurants, theaters and indoor events in BC as the province lifts its vaccine card rules.

As of 12:01 am Friday, the BC Vaccine Card, which has been in use since September, is no longer necessary unless an individual business chooses to keep using it. Proof of immunization is still required for federally regulated travel, like on airplanes, however.

Other provinces ended their vaccine card programs much earlier than BC Ontario lifted its requirement in early March while Alberta lifted its passport in February. Quebec’s vaccine passport, which was more strict than BC’s and was used to access box stores and liquor shops, was phased out in mid-March.

But earlier this week, BC health officials confirmed the end of the vaccine card program locally.

Dr. Bonnie Henry also gave a modeling presentation that suggested there has been a slight increase in COVID-19 cases, as tracked by wastewater testing in the Lower Mainland.

With increases in activity, more travel and a slightly more transmissible variant, Henry said Tuesday officials “know we are likely to see a slight increase over time in the next month to two months and then a gradual decreasing again.”

Even so, Henry said some measure are “no longer necessary all the time,” including the vaccine card, which she said “was very effective at supporting people to get vaccinated.”

Infectious disease expert Dr. Brian Conway agrees.

“You really do need three shots to protect against the Omicron variants. So the meaningfulness of the vaccine passport has decreased. It’s served its purpose now. Let’s move on and deal with endemic COVID,” Conway said.

But Conway stressed the pandemic is not over and said now is the time for British Columbians to take individual responsibility.

“We live in a COVID world,” he said.

“Get your shots, if you haven’t gotten all of the shots to which you are entitled. Stay home if you’re sick, keep washing your hands, have a mask on your person to use strategically. Mask mandates have transformed into mask Let’s learn that etiquette and these should be our priorities.”

Businesses have been preparing for the end of vaccine card requirements, with some choosing to put other safety measures back in place.

“There’ll be enhanced cleaning, sanitizers. A lot of restaurants probably won’t go back to menus. It will be QR codes, much more emphasis on patios,” said Ian Tostenson with the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association.

With more than 90 per cent of eligible British Columbians vaccinated against COVID-19, Tostenson said each person would have to assess their own risk, adding it was Dr. Bonnie Henry and not the association that pushed for the change.

“The chances of you being in a restaurant with an unvaccinated person are pretty small in British Columbia,” he said.

The vaccine passport program was designed to safely ease restrictions on gatherings events and encourage people to get vaccinated.

“It gave the public a sense of competence where we had it while we caught up to those high vaccination rates,” Tostenson said.

He said he hasn’t heard of any restaurants that will continue to ask for it, but it’s still a possibility.

“There might be a little community somewhere where they know their customers, and they would like to have that,” he said.

“But I think by and large, the public understands that with or without the vaccination card, it’s not going to change the safety in a restaurant.”

Proof of vaccination is still required to visit those in long-term care and assisted living facilities in BC

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Bhinder Sajan

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