B.C. to reopen sports arenas, concerts to max capacity: situation in Interior Health unclear

Will restrictions lift locally?

UPDATE 5 p.m.

It is not yet known whether Interior Health will be lifting capacity restrictions for concert and sporting events next week alongside the rest of B.C.

“Nothing is changing provincially until Oct. 25 and we will be able to provide clarity on the status in IH on Friday,” said a IH spokesperson in an email to Castanet.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Tuesday that capacity restrictions at sporting events and concerts would lift on Oct. 25 after the vaccine passport system goes fully into effect with a two-dose requirement.

She, however, said regional health authority restrictions can remain in place.

That means it appears the ball is now in the court of Interior Health.

Daily and active case counts have been dropping steadily in recent weeks within the region. And with the requirement already in place within IH that everyone watching a public sporting event be fully-vaccinated, it’s not clear what reasoning Interior Health would have for not following the provincial government’s lead and loosening restrictions.

Bruce Hamilton, president and GM of the Kelowna Rockets, is asking the same question.

"Everybody in our buildings have to have both vaccinations in order to get in, unless you're under 12. I don't know what more we can do to be safer,” he said. "When you add the other half of the attendance, it's still going to be the same group of people. They have to have their shots in order to get it."

"It's frustrating because we don't know what we have to do to get over the hump."

"From our perspective, we've lived by every protocol. Our protocols that were put in place in order to start a season were more stringent than the B.C. government's rules. We've lived by it, and that's the frustrating thing for me,” Hamilton added.

ORIGINAL 1:30 p.m.

Canucks players will likely be hearing more cheers from the crowd at Rogers Arena than previously expected when the puck drops for the NHL team’s home-opener next week.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Tuesday B.C. would return to 100% capacity at indoor sporting events, concerts, movie theatres and more effective October 25.

Patrons will be required to show proof of vaccination upon entry into these locations.

There is, however, some confusion as to whether the restrictions will lift in the Interior Health region as well. Castanet has asked both IH and the Ministry of Health to clarify and this story will be updated. The Kelowna Rockets organization tells Castanet they also don't know where things stand.

“We’re hoping to leverage the benefits of the vaccine card and this is an important first step,” Henry said.

Restrictions requiring everyone to remain at their own tables at restaurants and pubs are also being lifted “to allow a little bit more freedom of movement [due to] the fact that everybody in those situations will be fully vaccinated,” she added.

Other indoor events, such as weddings, funerals and parties will also be allowed to go back to max capacity.

Henry said she’s “very pleased” with last week’s announcement from American authorities that it would accept travellers from Canada with mixed doses of COVID-19 vaccines over the land border beginning November 8.

While Canada has pursued mixing and matching vaccines, the practice is not being undertaken by the Americans. And unlike Canada, the U.S. has not approved the AstraZeneca plc vaccine. But the Americans previously announced that foreign travellers who’ve gotten their jabs with a vaccine approved under the World Health Organization’s emergency use listing will be recognized as eligible for entry into the country. AstraZeneca falls within that scope.

“It’s a credit to the work we’ve done here in Canada to show the effect of the combinations,” Henry said.

“I’m just very pleased that people in B.C. who are fully immunized will now be able to travel.”

The U.S. will be reopening its land border to travellers from Canada on November 8 after Canada did so for American travellers back in August.

More to come...

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