For months, business and physicians’ groups have called on the province to issue a mandatory mask order, and on Thursday they got their wish.
“It’s a positive move,” said Brian Bradley, president of Stongs Markets. "It gives the policy we’ve been trying to enforce a little bit more teeth.”
Bradley said his business had already implemented a mandatory face covering policy.
“We haven’t had a lot of friction,” he said. “We do get the odd customer that does push back.”
Now that there is a province-wide mandate, he said, it will be easier for him and his employees to enforce the policy.
Many Vancouverites shopping on Robson Street Friday echoed this sentiment, that it’s about time. The policy was announced just days after Dr. Bonnie Henry penned an op-ed explaining her reasons for not ordering a universal mask mandate.
“Ordering universal mask use in all situations creates unnecessary challenges with enforcement and stigmatization,” Henry wrote at the time. “We need only look at the COVID-19 transmission rates in other jurisdictions that have tried using such orders to see what little benefit these orders by themselves have served.”
But Thursday the provincial health officer reversed course, saying, “I've asked the Minister of Public Safety and the Solicitor General to issue a requirement for the wearing of masks for all indoor public and retail spaces for staff and customers, except (when they’re) eating or drinking.”
Dr. Amy Tan, a spokesperson for the pro-mask group Masks4Canada, said the new mandate doesn’t go far enough.
“I would strongly consider urging the government to consider protecting those in schools and teachers because we really do, from a economic perspective and a societal perspective, need to keep schools open,” she told CTV News. “(A) mask mandate is a very low-hanging fruit that could help the safety in schools.”
Henry said Thursday schools are “a safe place” and officials are not seeing a lot of transmission there.
Tan hopes the government will reconsider making masks mandatory in schools.
As for how the mask mandate will be enforced, provincial officials did not release that information alongside the order. Staff told CTV News in an email that details on how the mask mandate will be enforced will be available early next week.