“This is not where I expected we would be in early August.”
That’s what Kelowna mayor Colin Basran said after Interior Health (IH) and the province announced further health restrictions in the Central Okanagan area to curb surging COVID-19 cases.
Since the regional outbreak was announced last week, COVID-19 cases have nearly tripled, despite a more concerted effort to get more people vaccinated and the return of the mask mandate.
Basran said he knows that having the ‘circuit breaker’ measures applied to Kelowna and the surrounding municipalities is difficult.
“I know everyone is tired of COVID-19. I get it. I am tired of COVID-19,” he said.
“But this virus continues to affect our community and right now, it is spreading amongst those who are not vaccinated. Please follow the advice of our public health officers and please get vaccinated.”
IH’s chief medical health officer Dr. Sue Pollock has said that the virus is spreading in under-immunized or unimmunized young adults between 20 and 40 years old, which was why they have made it easier for people in that age range to get vaccinated.
“The sooner we all do our part, the sooner we will return to normal. Please roll up your sleeves and get vaccinated,” Basran said.
Kelowna Chamber of Commerce executive director Dan Rogers, however, said the increased restrictions are detrimental to the region’s business community.
“This is a major blow to the business community and the community at large and we hope as the province responds to this outbreak that they also consider specific financial assistance to the businesses in the areas that are being impacted by these new region-specific orders,” he said.
Rogers added that small businesses, especially in Kelowna’s hospitality industry, were hoping they would be able to recover during the remainder of summer, but with restrictions and the growing wildfire situation, they are not so sure.
While the chamber understands the necessity of the restrictions, he said the province needs to focus on “establishing a clear framework of regulations that will allow businesses to operate in an environment where COVID-19 remains a concern”.
Rogers added that the restriction on gatherings will negatively impact local non-profit organizations who were hoping to organize some fundraising events that could help them through to 2022.
“Those non-profits also needed continued support to get through this challenging period of our area.”