Indoor mask use will no longer be required as of this Friday for public spaces, and the vaccine passport program will be lifted on April 8th, Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Thursday.

“We are progressing well, and we’re going in the right direction. And it is really thanks to British Columbians stepping up and doing what they need to do,” said Henry during a COVID-19 conference.

Guidelines for schools and childcare are also being revised to remove mask use upon students returning from Spring Break.

The province also announced that as of 12:01 a.m. on March 11th, long-term care visits will resume, capacity limits are being lifted on faith gatherings, and the overnight child and youth camps order will be removed.

Henry says mask use will become optional, but she encourages everyone to move at their own pace. Some businesses may still ask customers to wear masks.

“We need to support that. We need to recognize we all have our own risks and our own vulnerabilities,” Henry said.

Masks are being encouraged when physical distancing is difficult to follow, but they’re not required.

“Some settings will still require you to wear masks such as health care settings. But for low-risk locations, it will be an option and not a necessity.”

Along with the removal of the B.C. vaccine card on April 8th, businesses will transition to a communicable disease plan from the  COVID-19 Safety Plan, and post-secondary residences will lift their vaccine requirement.

The decision comes as transmissions have decreased, vaccination rates have grown, and fewer hospitalizations have been reported.

“Risks are now much lower. They are not at zero, and we are not out of this yet, but I am comfortable with making some changes.”

Henry says that despite the good news, the province is prepared to bring back some requirements if necessary.

“We’re also paying a lot of attention to what will happen next. It’s become clear to us that COVID will be with us,” said Henry.

She adds that COVID-19 will become another virus that must be monitored and managed on an ongoing basis, along with other respiratory illnesses.

Health Minister Adrian Dix also announced that the rapid test kits will be available to those 50 and older starting Friday.

More to come