BC’s Attempt to Halt the Spread of COVID-19: What the New Orders Mean for You and Your Business
In an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19 in BC, Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry issued several public health orders restricting social interactions and business operations within the province.
On May 25, 2021, BC introduced a four-step reopening plan titled BC’s Restart: A plan to bring us back together (the “Plan”). The end goal of the Plan (Step 4) was for BC to lift virtually all public health orders by September 7, 2021. Each of the four steps of the Plan will remove further restrictions. However, each step is contingent on the decline of COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations, and on a higher percentage of the population becoming vaccinated.
For more information on each of the four steps in the Plan and the corresponding removal of restrictions at each step, please refer to the BC Government’s webpage here.
BC entered Step 3 of the Plan on July 1, 2021. This signaled the end to BC’s state of emergency, originally declared on March 18, 2020, which allowed the Province to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act to support the COVID-19 pandemic response.
The end goal of lifting all public health orders by September 7, 2021, is likely to be delayed. On August 23, 2021, BC announced that individuals 12 years and older will need to show proof of vaccination to access certain discretionary events, services and businesses such as indoor and outdoor restaurants, indoor ticketed or organized events, and recreation facilities. By September 13, 2021, individuals must have received their first dose of the vaccine. By October 24, 2021, individuals must be fully vaccinated (an individual is fully vaccinated seven days after receiving their second dose). This proof of vaccination is a temporary measure that is set to end on January 31, 2022, subject to extensions.
BC also plans to launch a vaccine card website on September 13, 2021, which will allow individuals to show proof of vaccination through their smartphone devices. A paper option will also be available. Visitors from out of province must show their official provincially-or-territorially-recognized vaccine record and valid government ID as proof of vaccination to enter certain discretionary events and venues.
For more information on BC’s proof of vaccination requirement, please refer to the BC Government’s webpage here. More information is likely to be released in the upcoming weeks.
The following is a summary of the restrictions and permissions currently in place, the majority of which can be found in the Gatherings and Events Order. For more information please refer to the BC Government’s webpage here.
There are additional restrictions in the Interior Health region of BC. For information regarding the interior health region of BC specifically, please refer to Interior Health’s regional restrictions here.
Orders and Recommendations
Effective August 25, 2021, masks must be worn by individuals 12 years and older in all indoor public settings. There continues to be an exemption for:
- people with health conditions or with physical, cognitive or other impairments who cannot wear a mask;
- people who cannot remove a mask on their own;
- children under the age of 12; and
- people who need to remove their masks to communicate due to another person’s hearing impairment.
This order on masks will be reassessed when BC’s vaccine card and proof of vaccination is fully implemented.
Originally, the mask mandate order under the Emergency Program Act was lifted July 1, 2021.
Employers are no longer required to maintain a COVID-19 Safety Plan and can instead transition to communicable disease prevention. WorkSafeBC has published Communicable disease prevention: A guide for employers to assist employers in reducing the risk of communicable disease in their workplace. Higher risk workplaces may be subject to additional safety precautions.
Workplaces with a COVID-19 exposure that leads to transmission may be ordered to close for a minimum of ten days (larger workplaces may only be ordered to close the specific location where transmission occurred). Certain workplaces, such as police stations and shelters, will be exempt from such closure orders.
Retail businesses may return to normal operations.
According to the Food and Liquor Serving Premises Order, indoor and outdoor dining is allowed. There are no group limits for indoor or outdoor dining. Venues can determine their own table limits. There can be no socializing between tables and no dancing.
Personal Social Interaction
There are no restrictions on indoor or outdoor personal gatherings.
There are no capacity limits or restrictions on indoor or outdoor religious gatherings and worship services.
Schools will remain open. All K –12 staff, students in grades 4 –12 and visitors must wear a mask in indoor areas, including at desks and on school busses.
For more information on the 2021/2022 school year, please refer to the BC government’s COVID-19 safe schools webpage here.
Events and Gatherings
Indoor organized seated gatherings of up to 50 people or 50% capacity, whichever is greater, are allowed. For example if a venue has a normal seated capacity of 500 people, 250 people can attend.
There can be no dancing at indoor organized gatherings. Unless movement is necessary for the event, such as getting up to speak or to provide assistance to another person, participants at indoor gatherings must remain seated and must not congregate in parts of the indoor venue. This excludes participants attending a structured extracurricular activity for people 21 years of age and younger, such as music, art, recreational classes or social activities supervised by an adult.
Outdoor organized seated gatherings and associated receptions of up to 5,000 people or 50% capacity, whichever is greater, are allowed. For example, if a venue has a normal seated capacity of 30,000 people, 15,000 people can attend. The organizer must be able to monitor the number of persons present and ensure that number does not exceed the maximum number permitted.
For both indoor and outdoor organized seated gatherings:
- hand sanitation supplies must be readily available to participants; and
- toilet facilities with running water, soap and paper towels for hand washing and drying purposes, or hand sanitation supplies must be available for participants.
If there is a food or drink station:
- hand washing facilities or alcohol-based sanitizers must be within easy reach of the station;
- signs reminding participants to wash or sanitize their hands before touching self-serve food, drink or other items must be posted at the self-serve station; and
- high touch surfaces at the station and utensils that are used for self-serve must be frequently cleaned and sanitized.
Exercise and Fitness Centers
Indoor high intensity and low intensity group exercise is allowed with normal capacity. Gyms, pools and recreation facilities can operate with normal capacity.
All outdoor and indoor group sports for adults and youth are permitted. This includes games, competitions and practices. Travel for sport is also allowed.
Outdoor sport activities can have up to 5,000 spectators or 50% seated capacity, whichever is greater. Indoor sport activities can have up to 50 spectators or 50% seated capacity, whichever is greater.
Recreational travel within BC is permitted. This includes travel for:
vacations, weekend getaways and tourism activities;
visiting family or friends for social reasons; and
BC Ferries is welcoming all passengers back on board and all BC Ferries routes are now open to all types of travel. Masks remain mandatory inside terminals and on board ferries in indoor and outdoor spaces when not inside a vehicle.
Canada-wide recreational travel is allowed. This means that individuals travelling to BC from another Canadian province or territory do not need to self-quarantine when entering BC. However, they must follow the same province-wide restrictions as everyone else in BC.
More information about these travel restrictions is available on BC Government’s webpage here.
Whistler Blackcomb ski resort is open for summer operations in accordance with public health orders and guidelines.
Casinos can reopen at reduced capacity with 50% of gaming stations open.
Impact on Businesses
Businesses should continually confirm whether their particular service has been restricted and proceed accordingly. Businesses that are permitted to remain open should frequently revisit their COVID-19 Safety Plan and may transition to a communicable disease prevention. A helpful guideline is available here.
Businesses that have closed due to COVID-19 should check to see if they are eligible to receive rent support here.
Starting September 13, 2021, businesses that fall under the proof of vaccination requirement will need to ask to see proof of vaccination and valid governmental ID from patrons and attendees. See a full list of the types of businesses the requirements applies to here.
Available Fines and Enforcement Measures
Applicable fines pursuant to the legislation are as follows:
Contravention of the Public Health Act by, among other things,
Contravention of the Public Health Act:
Contravention of the Public Health Act by:
Contravention of the Emergency Program Act or interference with or obstruction of any person in the exercise of any power or performance of any duty under it.
Public Health Act, ss. .99(1), 108(1)(a)
Public Health Act, s. 107.
Public Health Act, ss. 99(2) and (4), and s. 108(1)(b).
Public Health Act, s. 107.
Public Health Act, ss. 99(3), 108(1)(c).
Public Health Act, s. 107.
Public Health Act, s. 27.