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Vaccines to be required for on-campus housing in B.C., many post-secondary activities

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For post-secondary students returning to school this fall, new requirements to curb the spread of COVID-19 on campus were released by B.C. health officials this week.

Updated guidelines include a new mask order and proof-of-vaccination requirement in some settings, including on-campus housing and on-campus restaurants. Vaccination will also be required to participate in sports.

Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Advanced Education Anne Kang spoke about the back-to-school plan for post-secondary students during a morning news conference Tuesday.

The mask mandate will apply to all indoor public areas, including in-class learning, and Henry said officials are balancing where the risk is.

"The risk really is in communal living settings that we have seen transmission … that's why we're focusing on the increase and importance of immunization in those settings," she said.

"We know the classroom setting is the least of the risky settings … we don't believe there is a need for a vaccine mandate for students to receive in-class education."

The only class-based exception to the vaccine mandate is for health sciences students because of their training in health-care settings.

Students living on campus will have until Sept. 7 to prove they've had at least one vaccine dose.

The update comes the day after the province announced a sweeping vaccine certificate system that requires eligible people to be fully vaccinated by late October to access some non-essential businesses like restaurants and movie theatres.

Henry said some institutions may be discussing as an employer whether staff and faculty will be required to be vaccinated, but said universities cannot, on their own, require vaccination for students to attend class.

"Those are the ongoing discussions that are happening at post-secondary institutions across the province and we're supporting those discussions," she said.

"It really has been the most difficult time for people … and the experience we heard across the board from last year was very challenging so these are the measure to put in place to try and get back to that all-important in-campus learning that is needed for young people." 

In a news release issued Monday evening, the University of British Columbia said further guidance on the requirement for proof of vaccination in student housing "will be developed in the coming days," including which types of housing may be included.

"We also recognize that we need to allow for a transition period beyond Sept. 7, for those students who are arriving from outside B.C. and Canada, to give them an opportunity to access vaccinations and obtain a B.C. Vaccine Card," the release said. "Further information will be provided in the coming week."

In an email to CTV Vancouver on Tuesday, Simon Fraser University’s senior director of media relations and public affairs Angela Wilson said students will not be required to have proof of vaccination to attend classes, but they will have to wear masks.

"In addition to the vaccination clinics available through public health, SFU has partnered with the Fraser Health Authority to host pop-up vaccination clinics at SFU's Burnaby and Surrey campuses to support students, faculty, and staff in getting vaccinated," Wilson said.

"For those living, studying, or working at SFU's Vancouver campus, a vaccination clinic continues to operate at the Vancouver Convention Centre, which is just a five-minute walk from Harbour Centre."  

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