By Camille Aubin
[email protected]

Over the past week, a number of updates and new regulations have been announced by both the federal and provincial governments stemming from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Kids attending primary schools now need to wear a mask while in the establishment. COVID-19 vaccines are mandatory for B.C. public employees, contractors, and those wishing to travel by plane and train. 

School mask mandate extended to all K-12 students

The B.C. government has expanded its school mask mandate to include all students and staff from kindergarten through Grade 12 across the province. The new health and safety measure was announced by the provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Friday, Oct. 1, in light of the recent spike in cases involving children between the ages of five and 11. “This pandemic continues to evolve and so do we,” said Henry. “We need to make changes to fit the situation as it’s arising. We know the COVID-19 virus is being transmitted more rapidly, particularly to those who don’t have the protection that vaccination offers. This extra measure adds another layer of protection as we navigate this phase of the pandemic.”

Henry’s public health order previously only required masks for students in Grades 4 through 12. Since Monday, Oct. 4, the expanded mask mandate will be in effect all through the fall semester. Students will be expected to wear their masks within the school buildings, including at their desks as well as on buses.

B.C. plans to release a new monthly report that will inform the public about the virus’s impact in schools and how it affects school-aged children.

Mandatory vaccination for provincial service employees

As of Tuesday, Oct. 5, the province announced that COVID-19 vaccines would be required for thousands of public employees in B.C. and for visitors to healthcare facilities, including long-term and assisted care.

The provincial government said that the B.C. Public Service Agency will require its 30,000 employees to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22. “As more employees return to their regular workplaces later in the fall, this provides an additional and reassuring layer of protection for workers who are continuing the vital work of serving British Columbians,” the statement said.

Another order will become effective on Oct. 12, requiring long-term care workers and assisted living providers to receive the first dose of vaccination and a second dose within 35 days of the first.

Federal public servants, RCMP must be vaccinated 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal government announced a mandatory vaccine policy on Oct. 7. It requires public servants, RCMP officers, as well as air and rail workers to have their vaccines by Oct. 30 or be forced to take an unpaid leave of absence.

Airport and airline staff, as well as those who work in restaurants or retail stores in post-security areas, need full immunizations. The same rule applies for all employees working on federally regulated railways, including rail and track crews, as well as marine operators. Federal contractors who access government buildings must also be fully vaccinated. There are more than 267,000 employees affected by this policy and who must report their vaccination status by the end of the month.

Employees who are unvaccinated will not be allowed to work in any capacity, in person or remotely, and they will be placed on administrative leave and denied pay.

Vaccine mandatory for air and rail, travellers

Proof of full vaccination for passengers aged 12 and older will be required before boarding planes leaving Canadian airports or travelling on Rocky Mountaineer trains from or within Canada as of Oct. 30.

“These travel measures, along with mandatory vaccination for federal employees, are some of the strongest in the world, because when it comes to keeping you and your family safe, when it comes to avoiding lockdowns for everyone, this is no time for half measures,” Trudeau said.

To qualify as a fully vaccinated traveller to Canada, you must have received the full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine or a full series of a combination of accepted vaccines. The last dose must be received at least 14 days prior to boarding. 

There will be a short transition period during which travellers not yet fully vaccinated will be able to travel if they can provide a negative COVID-19 molecular test within 72 hours of travel. This transition period will end on Nov. 30.

Documents with standardized, pan-Canadian vaccination proofs are in the works, but the details have not yet been announced.