B.C. vaccine card program kicks off: Proof now required to enter many non-essential businesses

B.C.'s vaccine card program requiring proof to enter many non-essential businesses is now in effect.

As of Monday, anyone visiting discretionary businesses like sit-down restaurants, movie theatres and fitness centres must show proof that they've had at least one COVID-19 shot. By Oct. 24, they'll need to show proof they're fully vaccinated.

Employees working at those establishments don't need to show proof they've been vaccinated, unless their employer requires them to.

For now, residents can show their paper vaccine card they received when they got their shot as proof. But starting Sept. 27, they'll need to show their unique vaccine card QR code – either on their phone or printed – along with a piece of government-issued photo ID.

Those without access to a computer can call the provincial vaccine line (1-833-838-2323) and request that a printed card be mailed to them.

B.C.'s card system will be in place until at least Jan. 31, and health officials have already warned it may be extended, depending on the spread of COVID-19 in the province.

Proof that a person has had one or both doses of COVID-19 vaccine is not required at businesses deemed essential, such as on transit or at grocery stores. A card also doesn't need to be shown when stopping at a restaurant just to pick up a takeout order.

The card will not be required in order to vote in the Sept. 20 federal election, nor is it be required to access government services.

Provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix was asked about opposition to the cards during an interview on CTV Morning Live Monday.

"Look, these are the rules right now, and no one is happy that we have to provide these protections for people, but this is our way as a province of getting back to more normalcy – of being able to have, in the time of the Delta variant, sit-down meals in restaurants, to be able to have people in the stands of hockey games, to be able to have people taking part in certain indoor fitness activities. All of this is enabling and personally, I'm very positive about the idea," he said.

"I know there's some people who are strongly opposed, but these are the steps we need to take. COVID-19 doesn't mess around, it doesn't debate, it doesn't argue. All it does is want to transmit, and these varieties of COVID-19, these variants of COVID-19 we see, are the virus's response. It doesn't listen to these debates, it wants to transmit itself, and we have to do what we can do to keep ourselves safe, and to allow others who want to use the health-care system access to intensive care, access to surgery, and so on."

Officials also revealed the proof-of-vaccination system has allowed them to relax some of the regional COVID-19 restrictions in place in the Interior Health region.

That includes increased capacity limits for organized gatherings provided that attendees prove they're fully vaccinated, the health authority said in a news release. Indoor events can allow 50 people or half the venue's capacity, whichever is greater, while outdoor events can allow 5,000 people or half the venue's capacity.

High-intensity group exercises classes are also once again permitted, and the hours of alcohol service have been extended past 10 p.m.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Kendra Mangione