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B.C. lifting vaccine card rules this week, even as rise in cases expected

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B.C. is sticking with its plan to lift COVID-19 vaccine card requirements this week, even though officials are expecting an increase in cases in the coming weeks.

As of Friday, unvaccinated people will be permitted to go to restaurants, movie theatres, indoor concert and sports venues, and anywhere else the provincial vaccine card was required. Vaccination rules for those staying in post-secondary residences will also be removed.

Proof of immunization will still be required for federally regulated travel, like on airplanes, however.

Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix gave the update during a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday. The pair first announced the plan to stop using vaccine cards last month, saying then a dramatic rise in case counts could delay the decision.

Tuesday's announcement came with a modelling presentation that suggested there has been a slight increase in cases, as tracked by wastewater testing in the Lower Mainland. With increases in activity, more travel and a slightly more transmissible variant, Henry said 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."

Henry said it's still up to an individual businesses to decide whether they want to keep restrictions in place, like mask rules or a vaccine-card requirement.

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

B.C. first announced the vaccine card last August and implemented the requirement in mid-September. Initially, the program was scheduled to expire at the end of January, but was later extended as case counts remained high. 

"We are seeing a levelling off in transmission but that doesn't mean our province is no longer vulnerable to new potential variants that are coming in the future," Henry said Tuesday. "It has been a most challenging time and we are not through it yet." 

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