VICTORIA — British Columbia residents will need to bring their vaccine card with them through to the end of June if they want to access indoor spaces, restaurants or most events, says the provincial health officer.
Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday the vaccine card is specifically designed to mitigate the risks of spreading COVID-19, allowing certain businesses and activities to remain open.
"As we move through this period, it will, I expect, no longer be necessary," Henry told a news conference. "But right now, it is one of those important tools that we have."
B.C.'s vaccine card, which shows proof of vaccination for those 12 years and older, will be needed until June 30.
The vaccine card will not show whether a person has received their booster dose because most are not eligible for it yet, she added.
The province's vaccine card program went into effect Sept. 13 and was set to expire Jan. 31. A second dose of the vaccine was made a requirement to access most places starting Oct. 24.
Friday will mark the two-year anniversary since the first reported COVID-19 case in B.C. and briefing by the province, Henry said.
"As our pandemic evolves and Omicron brings these new challenges, we have evolved our pandemic response."
While the number of COVID-19 infections is dipping, she said hospitalizations are at the highest point of the pandemic.
"We do know that even now with Omicron, some people are at much greater risk of hospitalization and severe illness, and we need to bear that in mind as we make these changes," she said.
The province reported 1,446 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, although officials have said the actual numbers may be up to five times higher because B.C. has reached its testing capacity.
There are 32,468 active cases, with 985 in hospital and 144 in intensive care, said a news release from the Health Ministry.
Henry also announced that starting Feb. 1, youth sports tournaments can resume, while those for adults remain on hold.
Sports are needed for youth for their growth, development and future opportunities, she said.
"We have always prioritized making sure that young people are able to access that part of these important aspects of their life," she said in reply to a question about why she's given the go-ahead for the tournaments.
"There are timing limits for things like university scholarships that become important."
Henry noted that long-term care and assisted living facilities have also seen a "sharp increase" in number of COVID-19 infections.
There are 63 health-care facilities, many of them long-term care, in the province that have COVID-19 outbreaks. But a combination of vaccines, booster doses and other health guidelines have reduced the risk of severe illness and death, she said.
"We are working very closely with long-term care homes to make sure that we can continue to have designated visitors for every resident."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2022.
The Canadian Press