The province will lift most COVID-19 restrictions as of 11:59 p.m Wednesday (Feb. 16), health officials announced Tuesday.
B.C. will remove rules around indoor personal gatherings, return indoor seated events to full capacity, allow full capacity and dancing for indoor and outdoor organized gatherings, allow full capacity at fitness centres and dance clubs, nix tournament restrictions and allow full capacity with mingling and no table limits for restaurants and bars. Nightclubs, closed through much of the pandemic, will also be allowed to reopen.
Health officials said that the mask mandates for indoor public spaces and the use of the vaccine card will still apply to restaurants, bars, organized events, fitness facilities and anywhere else where they were previously required.
Other restrictions such as COVID-19 safety plans, long-term care visitation rules, K-12 and child care guidelines, faith community guidelines, restrictions on child and youth overnight camps and industrial camps will remain. Those restrictions will be reassessed by March 15 and April 2.
Heath officials said that the lessening of restrictions has been made possible by B.C. high vaccination rate, with more than 90 per cent of people ages five and up have received their first dose and more than 85 per cent have received their second dose. A further nearly 53 per cent of people ages 12 and up have received a third dose.
“The reality is that this virus continues to circulate and because we have have a high level of immunity through immunization, for most people that doesn’t lead to a serious infection,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
The move to lessen restrictions, officials said, is meant to mitigate risks and move B.C. eventually to the end of the pandemic while not overwhelming the health care system. Currently, about 800 people are in hospital with COVID-19.
Henry said that when seasonal diseases, such as the flu and RSV, return in the fall, COVID-19 will likely also need to be managed.
“I don’t believe we’ll have to go back to broad societal measures” to control COVID, she added.