Mask mandates return in Manitoba and B.C, vaccine passport ready for download in Quebec

Delta variant, vaccination rates prompts return to mask wearing

Governments in B.C. and Manitoba, which are staring down the Delta variant and a fourth wave, have decided masks must once again be worn in indoor public settings.

Health authorities in B.C. say the mask mandate is also being brought back because a significant number of residents in the province remain unvaccinated.

Starting Wednesday, unless exemptions apply, anyone 12 and older in B.C must wear a mask in places such as retail and grocery stores, coffee shops, shopping malls, as well as when using public transit or ride-sharing vehicles, and in common areas of fitness centres and gyms.

Meanwhile, the Manitoba government says a mask mandate for public indoor spaces will be reintroduced in the coming days. The list of activities and services that can only be accessed if an individual is fully immunized will also be unveiled later this week.

Premier Brian Pallister told a media briefing on Tuesday that designated provincial employees will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID by October 31 or undergo regular testing.

The list includes teachers, school and educational support staff, public servants, childcare workers, nurses, physicians school bus drivers and custodians.

Beginning Wednesday in Quebec, the smartphone applications that will run the province’s vaccine passport system will be available for download.

Health Minister Christian Dube said the vaccine passport is a balance to keep the economy open while protecting people.

Starting September 1, residents 13 years of age and up must show proof of vaccination to access businesses the government deems as non-essential, such as gyms, restaurants and bars.

The passport will also apply to activities and businesses such as bowling alleys, cinemas, festivals and outdoor events involving more than 50 people, and outdoor sports that involve prolonged or frequent contact.

There have been large protests against vaccine passports in Quebec.

Questioned about the demonstrations, Dube said, “We cannot let an entire population be held hostage in order to let a minority keep their privileges.”

Vaccine passports will also be the norm in B.C. and Manitoba.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said he is opposed to vaccine passports and will let individual businesses make their own rules.