Human rights commissioner opposes end of mask mandate in B.C. health-care settings

B.C.’s human rights commissioner says the province’s decision to end mandatory face coverings in healthcare settings is putting vulnerable populations at greater risk in places where they should feel safest.

Last Thursday (April 6), provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that hospitals, clinics and long-term care homes will no longer be required to wear masks, while also canceling vaccinations and rapid antigen tests for visitors Require.

Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender said the move violated the right of vulnerable groups to participate equally in the community.

“Masks have minimal impact on those who wear them, but the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations is well known, and they can range from mild to fatal,” she said in a statement on Wednesday (April 12).

She said she has spent the past three years trying to persuade the province to approach the pandemic from a human rights perspective, taking into account the impact of their decisions on marginalized populations. Removing universal face coverings in healthcare settings does just the opposite, Govender said.

She noted that while the risk of COVID-19 for the general population has decreased, it still exists for some people.

“Marginalized people, including those who are fully vaccinated, the elderly and the frail, continue to die and face significant illness.”

Wearing a mask needs to be seen as a protection, not a restriction, she said.

“…the minor inconvenience caused by masks to some must be balanced against the more profound harm to the rights of marginalized people to participate in society and, in this case, to access health care.”

She said she believes public health officials in B.C. are doing the best they can, but they need to better consider the impact this particular decision will have.

In making the announcement last week, Henry told British Columbians that the mask-wearing rules could change depending on the severity of the respiratory illness in the future. Black Press Media has contacted the Ministry of Health for comment on Govender’s statement.

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Coronavirus Healthcare Human Rights Commission

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