British Columbia and Manitoba Reinstates Masks Mandate

B.C. has reintroduced masks mandate for public indoor spaces across the province.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the reinstatement during a news conference on Tuesday. The new mandate comes into effect on Wednesday and applies to people aged 12 and older in B.C.

“We now know that there is still a need for certain measures to be taken,” said Dr. Henry, citing rising case counts in the province.

“The mask mandate is one of those additional layers that we’re putting in place as we transition through the fall.”

Indoor spaces include grocery stores, city halls, restaurants, pubs and bars, public transit, taxis or office buildings where public services are provided.

Dr. Henry said the order will be reassessed in mid-October when the province fully implements vaccine cards showing proof of immunization for those entering restaurants, theatres and attending certain social events.

Masks will also be mandatory for school staff and students in Grade 4 and up returning to classrooms on Sept. 7.

Roughly 75 percent of B.C. residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but Henry said that number needs to be higher as the delta variant drives up case counts, putting those who are unvaccinated at greater risk of contracting the virus.

Unvaccinated people currently account for about 90 percent of COVID-19 cases in B.C., and 93 percent of hospitalizations. The risk of infection is about 10 times higher for people who aren’t vaccinated, according to Dr. Henry.

Similarly, masks will once again be mandatory in all indoor settings and government employees working with vulnerable people must be fully vaccinated — or face regular testing — under Manitoba’s latest COVID-19 public health orders.

Premier Brian Pallister announced the changes to Manitoba’s COVID-19 rules at a Tuesday morning press conference.

“Vaccines are our protection against the fourth wave, vaccines are our protection against future lockdowns, vaccines are how we get our lives back,” Mr. Pallister said. “Vaccines are our safest and only way out of this pandemic.”

Mr. Pallister said workers affected will include healthcare providers, teachers, early-learning providers, prison guards and all government employees, including members of the legislature.

They will have to be fully immunized by Oct. 31 or undergo regular COVID-19 tests, up to three times a week for full-time employees.

Proof of a negative test result will be required before the employees are allowed to resume working.

More than 81 percent of eligible Manitobans have had their first dose of a vaccine and 75.5 percent are fully vaccinated.

On the same day, Quebec announced it will require students in primary and secondary schools in nine regions, including Montreal and Laval, to wear masks at all times while indoors when they return to class in less than a week.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge announced the changes to the back-to-school plan in a news conference Tuesday alongside Isabelle Charest, the minister responsible for sports, and public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda.

The masks will make a comeback in classrooms across Montreal, Laval, Montérégie, Lanaudière, the Laurentians, Centre-du-Québec, Outaouais, the Eastern Townships and Mauricie.

Across the province, students will have to wear masks on buses and in common areas. Teachers will not be required to wear masks if they can maintain a distance of two meters.

There are currently no plans to make vaccinations mandatory in schools, but Minister Roberge said he will work with public health authorities to get as many eligible students over 12 as immunized.

According to the Minister, the vaccination campaign for school-age children is going well. More than 85% of Quebec students aged 12 to 17 received their first dose of the vaccine, and less than 77% received a second dose or made an appointment to have it.

The province will also roll out rapid testing in some schools in areas with high rates of COVID-19 transmission and where youth immunization rates are low.


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