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Mask mandates, vaccine passports still on the table as B.C. cases rise

'There are consequences if you don't' get vaccinated, says B.C. health minister.
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So far, 68.4% of eligible British Columbians (those 12 and older) have been fully vaccinated, while 81.7% have received at least one dose.

Masked students hitting classes at post-secondary institutions and vaccine passports deployed at the discretion of private businesses aren’t off the table in B.C.

As COVID-19 cases surge in the province — hitting the highest level since May amid the spread of the Delta variant — B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry again stressed she was examining “all of the options” as cooler fall weather approaches.

“What we have said is that we will not be denying people essential services based on their vaccination status,” she said during a Thursday media briefing.

“But I’ve also said very clearly that there are some services where people who work in those industries — and we think healthcare is an essential public service — that we need to make sure we are protecting health-care workers.”

This comes as Quebec Premier François Legault confirmed earlier in the day his province would deploy vaccine passports amid a surge of infections.

Vaccine passports for non-essential services may prevent patrons from visiting private businesses such as restaurants, pubs or cinemas if they cannot show they’ve been vaccinated.

“You’re not obliged to get vaccinated in B.C. or anywhere else in Canada, but there are consequences if you don’t,” B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Thursday.

Both he and Henry emphasized that Quebec has been working on the potential for deploying a provincial vaccine passport for a number of months.

“What we’re working on in B.C. is making it easier and easier for people to access their own records,” Dix said.

“As a practical matter — not just for those who want to travel internationally — it will be important to have access to your own records. And it will be increasingly necessary in many, many workforces.”

When pressed on whether mask mandates could be imposed on post-secondary institutions as the school year approaches, Henry said officials have been working to ensure there will be measures in place considered to be “appropriate.”

“These are ongoing discussions,” she said.

“We need to have vaccine available at student health services, within the reach of students [to] access very easily on campus.”

Thursday’s media briefing follows the conclusion of the province’s “Walk-in Wednesday” campaign whereby 20,000 vaccine shots were made available across B.C. for anyone who did not have an appointment for a jab.

A total of 16,505 shots — or 82.5% — of those 20,000 available doses were administered.

In all, immunizers administered 33,277 shots on Wednesday, including those who had appointments.

Dix said it was “one of the most significant days” for vaccinations since before Canada Day.

So far, 68.4% of eligible British Columbians (those 12 and older) have been fully vaccinated, while 81.7% have received at least one dose.

torton@biv.com

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