Citing high vaccination rates, on March 10, 2022, the British Columbia government announced the province’s next steps in lifting COVID-19 restrictions. These changes to existing masking and proof of vaccination requirements indicate a shift to the next stage in British Columbia’s pandemic response.

Lifting of restrictions

Effective March 11, 2022, masks are no longer required in public indoor settings, however, businesses can choose whether masks will be required on their premises. Employees must comply with an employer’s masking instructions (should the employer continue to require masks) and employers must not prohibit an employee from voluntarily wearing a mask.

Despite this change, employers must continue to take steps to eliminate or minimize the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace. COVID-19 Safety Plans are still required and employers must implement:

  • measures to prevent workers from crowding together or congregating in indoor common areas;
  • policies to support workers who have symptoms of a communicable disease so workers can avoid being in the workplace when sick;
  • measures to promote hand hygiene, a clean workplace, and proper maintenance and functioning of workplace ventilation; and
  • measures to support workers in receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.

Pre-entry screening remains necessary as employers must also not permit symptomatic individuals from entering the workplace.

This latest iteration of the Workplace Safety Orderexpires at 12:01 am on April 8, 2022. After April 8, 2022, the government is expected to roll-back the requirement for COVID-19 Safety Plans in favour of implementing communicable disease plans in accordance with communicable disease guidance issued by WorkSafeBC.

Also effective April 8, 2022, British Columba’s vaccination passport will no longer be required to access businesses, events, and services. However, like masking, individual businesses will be able to choose to continue requiring proof of vaccination beyond April 8, 2022, should they wish to do so.

Additional PHO measures

Despite the lifting of many restrictions, the provincial government continues to take steps in particular sectors. On March 7, 2022 the Provincial Health Officer issued the Health Professionals COVID-19 Vaccination Status Information and Preventative Measures Order ‎ which, among other things, requires the reporting of certain health-care professionals’ COVID-19 vaccination status. By March 31, 2022, colleges subject to the order must have a record of registrant vaccination status and where the registrant works (i.e. either proof of vaccination or an applicable exemption) which must be disclosed on request to the Provincial Health Officer or medical health officers. Unlike the Workplace Safety Order, this order does not have an expiry date.