BC lifts health-care mask rules as province emerges from pandemic

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Henry says the lifting of mask requirements does not mean such restrictions won’t return in the fall, as experts are still studying the seasonality of COVID.

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BC health officials are ending mask mandates in health-care settings and proof of vaccination for visitors to care homes as the COVID-19 pandemic loses steam after three long, grueling years.

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There will be no restrictions on visitors to long-term care, assisted living or health-care facilities, effective immediately.

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Provincial health officerDr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the scaling back of restrictions in a joint statement Thursday, the same day weekly COVID numbers for BC are released.

Cases, hospitalizations and deaths linked to COVID-19 have been mostly stable in recent months, and the toll of other respiratory viruses such as flu and RSV is on the wane after a “challenging” fall and winter season that put a continued strain on BC’s health-care system and workers, said Henry.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone, and the people of British Columbia have shown incredible resilience and dedication in their efforts to combat the virus,” said the statement.

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While most restrictions are being lifted, Henry says health-care workers are still required to be fully vaccinated. And masks may be required in high-risk situations where a patient is vulnerable to infectious diseases.

She also said some of the restrictions ending this spring might be put back in place in the fall if there’s a rebound in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations or deaths, noting experts are still studying the seasonality of the novel coronavirus.

“At this time, we have seen a decrease in all respiratory viruses, which allows us to move forward with confidence in removing some of the measures that were in place,” she said.

“It’s important to recognize that COVID-19 is still with us, and as such, we must remain vigilant and continue surveillance to monitor the situation.

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In the weekly COVID data, another 21 deaths were registered in the week March 26 to April 1 among people who tested positive for the virus in the 30 days before they died; 282 people were in hospital on Thursday, with 21 of those in critical care.

The dashboard that has tracked COVID numbers in BC since the start of the pandemic will stop being updated in two weeks, and will go dark altogether in early May. Data on COVID and other viral infections will continue to be available at the BC Center for Disease Control’s respiratory diseases site.

Vaccines and boosters still available

Starting this week, a spring booster vaccine will be available to those over 80 and the immune compromised.

A booster is not recommended for the general public, and no decision has been made on routine COVID-19 vaccinations in the province going forward, said Henry.

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However, an initial vaccination series or a booster dose is still recommended for anyone not fully immunized or boosted against COVID-19.

Appointments are available at pharmacies and public health clinics and can be made by going to the Get Vaccinated website or phoning 1-883-838-2323.

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