VICTORIA—Unvaccinated British Columbians will no longer be able to sweat it out in group fitness classes or meet up at bars indoors — starting this fall.
Amid intense public pressure over rising COVID-19 case numbers and the spread of the Delta variant, B.C. is implementing a new vaccine card system designed to prevent unvaccinated people from gathering in settings likely to allow the spread of the virus.
British Columbians will be able to download the cards onto their phones, or have a physical copy, indicating whether they are partially or fully vaccinated.
The cards announced Monday come with a spate of new public health orders that will combine for one of the most stringent local vaccine passport systems in Canada.
Starting on Sep. 13, people will need to prove through the vaccine card that they have one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to access certain specified locations and events. Come Oct. 24, they will need to have received their second dose of vaccine at least a week earlier.
The locations are the same as those that were restricted for all people under B.C.’s health measures prior to the vaccination campaign. They include: indoor sporting events, indoor concerts, indoor dining, nightclubs, high-intensity fitness centres, organized gatherings such as weddings and recreational classes and activities.
The card will not be used for access to retail stores, faith services, health services, or grocery stores.
Those under 12 years old, who are not yet eligible for vaccination, are also exempt from requiring a vaccine card.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she hopes the move will help encourage people who have not yet done so to get vaccinated.
“The science is clear. Unvaccinated people have more than 10 times higher risk (of getting infected with COVID-19),” she said.
In the month ending last Friday, Henry said, 93 per cent of B.C.’s COVID-19 hospitalizations were of unvaccinated people.
B.C.’s announcement follows similar programs in Manitoba and Quebec, limiting access to certain settings except for those who can prove they have been vaccinated.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott has so far resisted calls to implement a provincewide vaccine card, saying the province will work with the federal government when it develops its promised vaccine passport system for international travel.
On Friday, the association representing Ontario’s 444 municipalities wrote to the province asking for a provincewide vaccine card system like those in Quebec and Manitoba.
The City of Toronto, meanwhile, is one of a growing list of employers requiring proof of vaccination from its employees starting in September.