A busy Bernard Avenue in downtown Kelowna on May 18, 2020. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)

A busy Bernard Avenue in downtown Kelowna on May 18, 2020. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)

‘Businesses are frustrated’: Kelowna chamber of commerce, tourism sector react to health restrictions

The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce said part of the frustration is the region-specific mandate

Worry and frustration.

That is what businesses are feeling according to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce as public health restrictions are back again for the Central Okanagan area, which includes Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland and Lake Country.

The chamber said in a statement that the board understands the provincial decision to reinstate a mask mandate for indoor public spaces, but that there are red flags in how the decisions are being made and communicated.

“We can appreciate that with rising cases of infection in the area that reinstating a mask mandate is warranted but the surprise announcement with absolutely no advance consultation with our organization or the business community is simply not acceptable,” Kelowna chamber’s executive director Dan Rogers said.

“Businesses are frustrated and tired of trying to keep track of what’s required of them when changes are frequent and occasionally appear arbitrary.”

READ MORE: Mask mandate returns to Central Okanagan, COVID-19 outbreak declared

Rogers added that part of the frustration is the fact that the chamber had always pushed for a regional approach to health restrictions a long time ago when Interior case numbers were low.

“(But) we continually heard from government that all rules would apply equally across all regions of the province,” he said.

“Now when things are a concern in one small area in the Interior, the BC government doesn’t seem to have a problem with regional-based restrictions.”

Rogers said the chamber agrees mandatory masking is a reasonable step in curbing the spread of COVID-19, but that the province and Interior Health should focus their efforts on “how people behave”.

“We are a tourism community, and we should welcome visitors and simply ask them, along with all of us, to respect safety protocols as a means to see us through to the end of the pandemic.”

READ MORE: Interior Health leads recent provincial COVID-19 case counts

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Kelowna International Airport (YLW) senior manager of airport operations Phillip Elchitz said yesterday (July 28) that they don’t expect changes to the number of passengers coming into and leaving the Okanagan.

“YLW is not anticipating a reduction in commercial scheduled flights as a result of the new provincial health guidelines specific to the Central Okanagan,” he said.

“YLW currently has a mandatory mask policy in place for all areas of the Air Terminal Building and on aircrafts due to Transport Canada requirements.”

For its part, Tourism Kelowna has said that it appreciates and supports what public health officials are doing to fight against the virus.

Tourism Kelowna president and CEO Lisanne Ballantyne said in a statement that with non-essential travel to the Central Okanagan being discouraged, it’s important for visitors to check in with their providers to see if they’ll still have accommodation.

“We recommend you call ahead and get information and seek information from official sources so you can make informed travel decisions,” she said.

“We can still safely enjoy summer if we do the right thing, remain patient, and be kind to each other.”

READ MORE: No changes expected as COVID-19 cases surge in Central Okanagan: YLW


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