British Columbia will ease pandemic restrictions significantly on Thursday, but only for the vaccinated.
Starting at 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 16, restaurants, bars and nightclubs can fully reopen with no capacity limits. Mingling between tables and dancing is again allowed.
Fitness centres, adult sports, dancing and swimming can resume at full capacity with no tournament restrictions. Indoor seated events, like concerts and sporting events, can operate at full capacity.
Indoor and outdoor organized gatherings such as weddings and funerals can resume with full capacity while indoor personal gatherings can return to normal.
All of the lifted restrictions, however, come with the caveat that vaccine passports and masks remain mandatory.
The provincial government said Tuesday it will “review” other restrictions, including the vaccine passport, mask order, long-term care and faith restrictions, by March 15 and April 12.
B.C. is now the only province outside Atlantic Canada that has not announced a planned end date for its vaccine passport system.
The government says it is shifting to a long-term COVID-19 management strategy “focused on immunization, self-management” and protections of the most vulnerable. Ongoing “waves and troughs” of the virus will be responded to with the “least restrictive” measures that target protections of the most at risk.
"These changes are taking effect after careful review of where we are in this pandemic, and the credit goes to all British Columbians for their action to protect themselves, their families and their communities," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. "We will continue to rely on what is happening in B.C., science and evidence to guide our next steps in this journey to protect people from COVID-19 while safely easing restrictions."
Health officials say B.C. is one of the most vaccinated jurisdictions in the world with additional protection provided by recovered cases.
The Interior Health region is lagging behind the rest of the province in recovering from the impact of the Omicron wave. The vast majority of B.C.’s surgery cancellations are in the B.C. Interior.
Fifty-five per cent of eligible B.C. kids aged 5-11 have now received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 90.5 per cent of B.C. residents aged 12 and up have received two doses, while 52.7 per cent of those 12 and up have received a booster dose.
The government shared data Tuesday that showed daily virus deaths and hospitalizations per 100,000 in B.C. below most other G7 countries and other Canadian provinces.
There are now 803 COVID-positive cases in B.C.’s hospitals.