Kelowna Chamber: Why are regional restrictions OK now?

Chamber grumbles on masks

The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce is "raising the red flag" over how the provincial government handled the announcement of a localized indoor mask mandate for the Central Okanagan.

“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,” said Dan Rogers, executive director of the Kelowna Chamber, in a news release Wednesday.

Rogers said Kelowna businesses are “frustrated and tired” of trying to keep track of public health requirements “when changes are frequent and occasionally appear arbitrary.”

“As an example, we had pushed for regional decision making a long time ago but when the interior numbers were low, we continually heard from government that all rules would apply equally across all regions of the province,” said Rogers. “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 says the Chamber agrees that mandatory masks indoors is a “reasonable step” that may also lessen conflicts between businesses and customers.

“The increased case rate is a concern and threatens to dim the light at the end of the tunnel,” Rogers continued. “It is a good reminder that the pandemic virus is still out there, and we still need to be diligent in how we operate, and the government needs to do more to encourage those who haven’t been vaccinated to pick up the pace. The evidence is clear that those who are not vaccinated or who are under-vaccinated are not only putting themselves at risk but they’re putting others and the local economy at risk.”

With the provincial government now discouraging against travel to the Central Okanagan, the Kelowna Chamber is calling on health authorities to focus their efforts more on “how people behave” rather than where they are from.

“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,” the Chamber said in a statement.

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