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Loosening COVID restrictions ‘long awaited,’ says Whistler Chamber CEO

Everything you need to know about B.C. and Canada’s new COVID-19 rules
Whistler restaurants can return to full capacity and no Plexiglas after Tuesday's announcement that B.C. will be loosening its COVID restrictions.

The Whistler Chamber of Commerce’s CEO welcomed this week’s loosening of COVID-19 restrictions as long-overdue good news for Whistler’s pandemic recovery. 

“Honestly, it’s been long awaited news from both the provincial and federal governments today to start to see things loosen up a little bit more,” said Melissa Pace. “Businesses have been operating at a reduced capacity and they can operate now at full capacity, so they’re able to now generate the revenue needed to build back and support a healthy and sustainable economy for Whistler and across the province.” 

Changes to B.C.’s COVID-19 rules were announced Tuesday, Feb. 15 by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who outlined how we came to be at the stage we are now when it comes to community transmission of the virus, and which restrictions are to be lifted. 

Starting at midnight on Feb. 17, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms and fitness studios will be able to operate at full, unrestricted capacity.

For restaurants, the eased restrictions mean no table limits, thus bringing to an end again the cap at six guests per table. Additionally, mingling between tables will be allowed. Barriers, like the Plexiglas dividers we’ve grown accustomed to, will no longer be necessary, however employees will still be following their own workplace safety plans. 

In one significant and long-awaited change, dancing will be allowed again. One of the longest-held COVID-19 restrictions in the province, dancing has been off-limits in places like nightclubs and bars since restrictions were first implemented in B.C. in March 2020.

However, some key restrictions remain in place province-wide that affect who can—and cannot—dine at all restaurants or dance the night away at a B.C. club. Face masks will still be mandatory when not seated, and the BC Vaccine Card will still be required to be scanned at the door showing proof of full vaccination, i.e. two doses of an approved COVID-19 shot. 

Indoor personal gatherings will also see a return to normal. Previously, indoor organized gatherings of any size were not allowed, which included sponsored or ticketed parties and celebrations as well as wedding and funeral receptions.

Indoor seated events will also return to full capacity with the BC Vaccine Card program and face masks in place. 

In Whistler, the Meadow Park Sports Centre is set to return to full occupancy on Feb. 17, with the advance reservation system that was in place to help manage bookings no longer needed. Proof of vaccination is still required to use gym, fitness and pool facilities.*

Tuesday also came with the announcement the federal government is dropping the molecular COVID-19 test requirement to enter Canada. Starting Feb. 28, travellers may use a rapid antigen test to meet Canada’s COVID-19 travel requirement instead of a PCR test (although they can still choose to provide a PCR test result). However, fully vaccinated travellers from anywhere in the world could be subject to random PCR testing upon arrival—although they will not be required to quarantine while awaiting the results. 

Children under 12 who are not fully vaccinated and travelling with fully vaccinated adults will no longer need to wait and self-isolate before attending school, daycare or day camps. They will also no longer be subject to testing and other specific requirements. 

The requirement for unvaccinated travellers to be tested on arrival and on their eighth day in Canada will remain in place. They must also quarantine for 14 days. 

To prove a previous COVID-19 infection, travellers must show proof of a molecular test result taken at least 10 calendar days and more than 180 calendar days before entering Canada. 

Pace said the next step for the chamber is continuing to advocate to the province on behalf of Whistler’s labour needs. 

“The more businesses are open, the more labour is going to be needed, so that’s obviously the next for us, to continue the short- and long-term labour strategy moving forward,” she said. 

- With files from Elana Shepert and Lindsay William-Ross 

*An earlier version of this story said proof of vaccination is no longer required to use the pool at Meadow Park Sports Centre, which is not the case.

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