BC Transit and TransLink have announced that non-medical masks or face coverings will be mandatory for all passengers starting August 24.
This move comes just one day after doctors in B.C. penned an open letter urging a mandatory mask policy for transit, along with other situations.
At briefings over the past few weeks, the provincial health officer had hinted that this mandatory mask policy for transit was in the works.
According to a statement from BC Transit, children under five and those who cannot wear a face mask for health reasons will be exempted from this policy.
Overall, the crown corporation says that though masks will be made mandatory, there will be no enforcement and it will be implemented as “an educational step”—an approach that is also being taken by TransLink.
BC Transit spokesperson Jonathon Dyck says the decision to not include enforcement is in alignment with other transit authorities in Canada, like the Toronto Transit Commission, that have successfully implemented similar mandatory mask policies by using an education-only approach.
“We recognize the advice from health professionals, including Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, has been to wear face coverings when physical distancing is not possible including on transit vehicles,” reads a statement from BC Transit.
“Customers have indicated making the use of face coverings mandatory will create a more comfortable environment.”
BC Transit has had signage posted on board buses and at stops across the CRD encouraging the use of face coverings while on board for several weeks.
Dyck says they will increasing signage and working to make people aware that masks are now mandatory and not just encouraged.
However he says people who board the bus without a face covering will not be asked to put one on. Instead, bus drivers will assume they meet the exemption criteria and are unable to wear a mask for health reasons.
Last month, BC Transit launched a campaign to encourage more people to wear face coverings while on board buses by handing out 1,650 branded face masks at various bus stops in Greater Victoria.
Since the start of the pandemic, the transit operator has introduced multiple safety measures aboard buses including enhanced cleaning mechanisms, markings to help understand where to stand, and signage on board explaining the use of face coverings and importance of physical distancing.