B.C.'s new COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings met with mixed reactions

New restrictions on in-person religious gatherings in B.C. have been met with mixed reactions from places of worship.

On Tuesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced multiple new restrictions including the removal of an indoor mask mandate exemption.

Previously, those attending church services and other religious gatherings were exempt from provincial mask mandates, though they were still encouraged to wear face coverings.

However, with concerns caused by the new Omicron variant, Henry lifted the exemption.

"There'll be some tension,” said Mardi Dolfo-Smith, discipleship pastor at the North Shore Alliance Church.

"We understand why that’s a requirement but it will cause some hardship for some of our people who are adverse to wearing masks.”

On top of the mask mandate, worship services must now be limited to 50 per cent capacity, unless every participant is vaccinated.

Dolfo-Smith says they’ll go with the capacity limit option to ensure none of their members are left out.

"The people that have chosen not get vaccinated really need to be in the community, they need to meet with us, they need to know they're cared for and loved,” she said.

“Excluding them could be detrimental to the unity in our community."

Dolfo-Smith says they fear that the province will soon make full vaccination a requirement for everybody entering into places of worship.

“That would cause a lot of conflict in our community," she said.

However, at the Congregation Beth Israel Conservative Synagogue, that same concern is not shared.

"We have had a vaccine mandate in place for a number of months now,” said Rabbi Jonathan Infeld.

Infeld says their members were in support of the requirement, with little to no push back.

"People have been happy to show their vaccine passport or other proof that they're vaccinated, it's gone really well.”

No timetable was given on how long the new rules will remain in place.