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B.C. lifts mask mandate for nearly all indoor public spaces

British Columbia is marking a major milestone in the return to pre-pandemic normalcy in the province, after years of COVID-19 restrictions.

B.C. health officials lifted the mask mandate again Friday, as a result of declining infections and hospitalizations.

Face coverings will no longer be required in a broad range of indoor environments, but are still being recommended in some places.

“I'll continue to wear my mask if I'm on public transit and I would encourage others to do so too. We know it protects us, but it's also a sign of respect of protection for others,” said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry in a press conference Thursday.

Henry says it’s still best to wear a mask in spaces where it’s difficult to distance from others.

“It's a matter of time and space, and how close we are to people," Henry said. "So let's continue to be respectful, recognize that some people will need to continue to wear masks, and it will be important for them, and that we should keep a respectful distance for people so that we're not crowding them."

Masks will not be required on public transit or BC Ferries, but TransLink is still requiring them on HandyDART for now.

“The provincial health officer still requires masks in medical settings and many customers using this service are travelling to and from medical appointments,” wrote TransLink in a release.

The majority of commuters at Braid Station in New Westminster were still wearing masks Friday morning.

“I still want to be safe. I’m double vaxxed, but I still want to be safe. I'm 62 years old and don't want to get sick,” said Harun from Port Coquitlam as he left the station.

Kelly from Coquitam said she plans on wearing her mask for a little while longer too.

“It's been two years wearing a mask. So it's just sort of like automatic,” she said as she entered the SkyTrain station.

“I was surprised, actually, when I got on the bus and I looked around and there were so many people with masks still on. I thought, ‘Well, that's cool,’” she said.

Face coverings will also remain mandatory at doctors' offices, patient contact areas, and federally-regulated workplaces.

Businesses and organizations can make their own rules.

“I can tell you less than five per cent of stores will keep their mask mandate,” said Greg Wilson of the Retail Council of Canada.

“I imagine those that do keep the rules are small in size where it's difficult distancing or there's immunocompromised people working."

Henry is recommending those who are older, immune compromised, don't have a booster, or have kids who are unvaccinated continue masking especially in large indoor group settings.

Mask requirements are being dropped in schools after spring break and dates vary.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation says it would’ve liked to have seen the mandate lifted after all students were on break to avoid confusion.

“Only 30 per cent five- to 11-year-olds are fully vaccinated across the province that is a very low number. And that number really hasn't improved, particularly,” said Teri Mooring of the BC Teachers’ Federation.

B.C. travellers will have to keep their masks if heading to Vancouver International Airport for a spring break vacation.

Face coverings are still mandatory inside the airport and on planes because those are federally regulated spaces.

Proof of vaccination continues to be required for all air travel as well.


Physician Dr. Rhonda Low says the removal of the mask mandate puts the responsibility on individuals.

Low says it’s important for everyone to assess their risk of catching COVID-19 before going bare-faced.

Here are the four things she encourages everyone to consider.

1. Vaccination status

Low says it’s important to know the vaccination status of your friends, family, and other people with whom you spend time.

“There's no question that the best protection against getting very sick is to get vaccinated,” she told CTV Morning Live.

2. Community transmission

Be aware of how much COVID is spreading around in your community.

“So, you want to follow the news to see what the levels are at – (if) they’re high or if they're low, (if) they're surging – again, because those levels will affect the transmission rate,” she explained.

3. Where are you going?

There are a number of factors to consider, including how crowded it will be, if it’s well ventilated, and if you’ll be able to physically distance.

“Because if the answer is no to those ones, then that does – just by physical parameters – increase your risk for catching COVID,” said Low.

4. Protecting vulnerable loved ones.

Low says it’s vital to consider who else you're in close contact with that you need to protect.

“If you have a baby, a toddler, immunocompromised partner, or folks, elderly folks who are at risk for getting very sick if you got sick and brought it home to them, then that factors into all the things that you need to know and what you should do to protect yourself,” she said.

“Even if everyone is vaccinated, but you're going into a poorly ventilated, very crowded space for a long period of time, and you've got someone at home still that you are worried about, you might want to consider wearing a mask,” she said.

For offices and workplaces, Low suggests purchasing a CO2 monitor to determine how well ventilated they are.

“You might want to get a HEPA filter in your space – businesses can too – and that can gauge levels of ventilation. No one should be made to feel uncomfortable if they still want to mask because that's a personal choice,” she said.  

With files from CTV Vancouver’s Bhinder Sajan, Angela Jung and Alyse Kotyk Top Stories

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