The mandatory mask policy while riding Metro Vancouver’s public transit system could come to an end almost a year after the requirement was first implemented.
An internal bulletin sent to TransLink employees on June 24, 2021 states the mandatory mask policy is expected to be “suspended soon. Instead, masks will be recommended while onboard transit vehicles and vessels, and at bus stops and platforms until BC enters the Restart Plan‘s Step 4, which is expected to begin in September 2021.
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Step 3 entailing a relaxation of mask regulations across the province is expected to begin as early as July 1, 2021.
“Employees should expect that not all customers will be wearing masks as of July 1,” reads the bulletin.
The bulletin also notes that the mandatory mask policy signage and decals across the public transit system will be updated to reflect changes in the public health orders. This process of changing signs and decals is expected to take several weeks.
As well, pending public health orders, Transit Police will no longer enforce the policy.
It should be emphasized that the mandatory mask policy is currently still in effect and enforced, until further notice. An official change in policy has not been made.
“We are still waiting for guidance from the Provincial Health Officer on Step 3 of BC’s Restart Plan and we will follow her guidance on masks,” said TransLink spokesperson Tina Lovgreen in an email to Daily Hive Urbanized.
“We shared information with our employees to let them know that BC will potentially start Step 3 of the restart plan on July 1. Since BC announced its restart plan, it has stated that the earliest the province will move to Step 3 is July 1, when masks will be recommended in public indoor settings.”
A spokesperson for BC Ferries also says they are awaiting guidance from the Provincial Health Officer.
Public transit ridership is expected to increase over the coming months as more restrictions are lifted, the economy begins to rebound, workers return to their offices, and full in-person instruction at post-secondary campuses resume.
Last year, TransLink initially implemented a policy that recommended passengers to wear masks, but this was later upgraded to a mandatory mask requirement, with the policy first announced on August 6 and then implemented on August 24 after signage and decals were changed.
Mask compliance increased from around 50% before the policy’s announcement to over 90% by early September, based on spot check. As of this spring, mask compliance on bus and SeaBus services was as high as 98%.
Under the updated health order, Transit Police have also been able to issue fines of $230 for mask non-compliance.
The public transit authority also distributed tens of thousands of free TransLink-branded masks to passengers to encourage use in late spring and early summer 2020.
As of today, there were 72 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in BC over the past 24-hour period, including 24 in Vancouver Coastal Health and 29 in Fraser Health, continuing a steep declining trend that began earlier this spring.
To date, 68% of all people in the province have received at least one dose, and this figure rises to 77% when only eligible people age 12 and over are counted.
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