BC's COVID-19 rules are changing: Here's what churchgoers need to know
An exemption in place worshippers in British Columbia was changed Tuesday as the province confirmed its first case of the concerning Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Previously, those attending church services and other religious gatherings were exempt from provincial mask mandates, though they were still encouraged to wear face coverings.
That announcement was made Nov. 1, with health officials saying at the time that places of worship are only considered indoor public spaces – for the purpose of the mandate – when they are used for secular purposes."
That is, until Tuesday, when the province's top doctor removed that exemption that allowed worshippers to bare their noses and mouths when attending faith services.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a weekly news conference that masks are required at these services going forward.
The amendment also applies to those in choirs. Masks can be taken off if eating or drinking during ceremonies, or if physical distancing measures are in place.
She did not say how long the mandate would apply to places of worship, though she announced the update as being put in place "as we enter the holiday and winter season."
Additionally, worship services must now be limited to 50 per cent of seated capacity, she said, unless every participant is vaccinated.
If everyone has had their COVID-19 vaccines, up to 100 per cent capacity is permitted.
"The province, as you know, has a vaccine card available for faith services to use that will allow flexibility for you and your congregation to work with congregants to provide proof of vaccination by other means," Henry said.
"And I know that many faith services have done this already."
with files from CTV News Vancouver