‘This new order will ensure we have the tools necessary to enforce the mask mandate’
British Columbia is revising measures under the Emergency Program Act (EPA) to align it with the provincial health officer’s (PHO) guidance that medical or non-medical masks that cover the nose and mouth must be worn in indoor public places.
“We’ve entered a second wave of COVID-19 in British Columbia and additional steps need to be taken to protect our health,” said Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general. “Now more than ever, we all need to follow the guidelines of the PHO. Last week, the PHO provided guidance that masks should be worn in all indoor public places. This new order under the EPA will ensure we have the tools necessary to enforce the mask mandate as recommended by the PHO.”
The wearing of masks is now required in common areas of office buildings, courthouses, hospitals and hotels; and common areas of post-secondary institutions and non-profit organizations.
The policy also applies to:
- malls, shopping centres, coffee shops, and retail and grocery stores
- liquor and drug stores
- airports, city halls, libraries, community and recreation centres
- restaurants, pubs and bars
- places of public worship
- on public transportation, in a taxi or ride-sharing vehicle
- common areas of sport and fitness centres when not engaged in physical activity
In October, Ontario required the use of face coverings in all public indoor settings across the province, such as businesses, facilities and workplaces.
Face shields are not a substitute for a mask, as there is an opening below the mouth, according to the B.C. government.
Anyone without a mask in an indoor public place or who refuses to comply with the direction of an enforcement officer, including the direction to leave the space, or who responds with abusive or belligerent behaviour, may be subject to a $230 fine.
In September, Transport Canada fined two individuals $1,000 each for refusing to follow the direction from the air crew to wear their face coverings, contravening the Interim Order to Prevent Certain Persons from Boarding Flights in Canada due to COVID-19, the first such fines issued by the federal institution.
However, people who cannot wear a mask or who cannot put on or remove a mask without the assistance of others are exempt. This includes those with a psychological, behavioural or health condition, or a physical, cognitive or mental impairment.
Masks may be also removed temporarily in indoor public places to identify the individual wearing the mask, to consume food or beverage at a location designated for this purpose, while participating in a sport or fitness activity in a sport facility or while receiving a personal or health service that requires the mask to be removed.
“Education is key, which is why we’re having businesses review their plans and getting the word out to communities in several languages,” Farnworth said. “Businesses should provide signage on the mandatory mask policy and inform customers about the requirement. Of course, despite any range of efforts, some people will break the rules knowing full well what they’re doing. These measures give police and other enforcement officials the tools to intervene with and penalize problematic individuals and groups.”
Emergency Management BC also anticipates issuing further orders to enforce requirements for masks in common areas of apartment buildings, condos and workplaces. This first order covers the high-traffic public settings where people who do not know each other often interact, according to the B.C. government.