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B.C. to reopen sports arenas, concerts to max capacity

Patrons will need to show vaccine card for admission later this month
Rogers Arena in Vancouver | Photo: Chung Chow, BIV

Canucks players will likely be hearing more cheers from the crowd at Rogers Arena than previously expected when the puck drops for the NHL team’s home-opener next week.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Tuesday B.C. would return to 100% capacity at indoor sporting events, symphony concerts, movie theatres and more effective October 25.

Patrons will be required to show proof of vaccination upon entry into these locations.

“We’re hoping to leverage the benefits of the vaccine card and this is an important first step,” Henry said.

“We’ll be monitoring carefully and looking at whether we can take away additional restrictions depending on how things evolve over the next few weeks.”

Restrictions requiring everyone to remain at their own tables at restaurants and pubs are also being lifted “to allow a little bit more freedom of movement [due to] the fact that everybody in those situations will be fully vaccinated,” she added.

Henry was also quick to emphasize that other public health restrictions, such as mask mandates, remain in effect.

Other indoor events, such as weddings, funerals and parties will also be allowed to go back to max capacity.

Henry said it was always intended to lift capacity restrictions in seated venues once the vaccine card initiative was fully deployed (vaccine card users must show they’ve had two doses — not just one — as of October 24).

“It doesn’t reduce the risk to zero. It means that we are mitigating the risk,” she said.

People entering restaurants and pubs must be fully vaccinated and Henry said she was hearing feedback from proprietors of those businesses that it was difficult for workers to ask patrons not to visit people at other tables.

“We are not seeing transmission in those settings where the vaccine card is used,” she said about the decision to loosen restrictions over movement within those establishments.

But the loosened restrictions don’t go so far to allow people to dance in those establishments or others such as night clubs.

Meanwhile, Henry said she’s “very pleased” with last week’s announcement from American authorities that it would accept travellers from Canada with mixed doses of COVID-19 vaccines over the land border beginning November 8.

While Canada has pursued mixing and matching vaccines, the practice is not being undertaken by the Americans. And unlike Canada, the U.S. has not approved the AstraZeneca plc vaccine.  But the Americans previously announced that foreign travellers who’ve gotten their jabs with a vaccine approved under the World Health Organization’s emergency use listing will be recognized as eligible for entry into the country. AstraZeneca falls within that scope.

“It’s a credit to the work we’ve done here in Canada to show the effect of the combinations,” Henry said.

“I’m just very pleased that people in B.C. who are fully immunized will now be able to travel.”

The U.S. will be reopening its land border to travellers from Canada on November 8 after Canada did so for American travellers back in August.

About 340,000 children between the ages of five and 11 reside in B.C. as health officials await word on whether the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) will be able to be used on that demographic. On Monday, Pfizer submitted an application to Health Canada for such use.

Henry said she expects B.C. will have enough vaccine available everywhere in the province at if and when the vaccine is approved for that age group.

But she added that the rollout will differ depending on the community. She also confirmed that vaccinations will not be done in pharmacies or physician offices.

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