'We can't get any answers': Frustration grows as Interior Health won't explain rationale for local restrictions

No explanation from IH

Madison Erhardt

Elected representatives and the public are still waiting on clarification and explanation from Interior Health over local COVID-19 restrictions that are holding sporting and concert events at half capacity in the region.

In most of the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island, residents will now be allowed to attend events like hockey games, concerts and weddings without any limits on numbers. Patrons at restaurants will also now be allowed out of their seats.

When provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry made the announcement last week, she said regional restrictions put in place by health authorities like Interior Health could remain in place.

For nearly a week now, Interior Health has refused to explain why the restrictions are staying in place locally.

"We were told that Friday was going to be the day that we would hear an update and we were really disappointed that we didn't hear anything back on Friday," said Kelowna-Mission MLA Renee Merrifield.

Merrifield along with four other Liberal MLA's sent Interior Health a letter last week asking for an explanation on the varying capacity rules in Interior Health compared to other parts of B.C.

“The two WHL teams based in Kamloops and Kelowna have been leaders in the sports world with respect to ensuring the safety of their fans, players and staff via requirements for double vaccinations and safe operating protocols,” the letter stated.

The MLAs explained to IH that the Kelowna Rockets and Kamloops Blazers are “at a loss to understand” why Lower Mainland arenas will be at full capacity while theirs may be required to sit half empty.

Merrifield says Interior Health responded right away after the letter was sent specifying that more information would be given on Friday, but to no avail. Castanet was also told an explanation would come Friday, but there was none.

"If you say Friday it should be Friday and that should give that level of trust and certainty that we all need to feel with our public health officers," she added.

President and general manager of the Kelowna Rockets Bruce Hamilton says he's frustrated.

"We kind of felt when Dr. Henry made her announcement that would be all encompassing. I understand they have decided now to have some regional rules put in where we didn't have that most of the year. In the Northern region things are tougher up there right now than they are down here. But for you to allow Vancouver and Victoria to get going it has such a huge impact on our business and not just us."

"We just don't understand it and we can't get any answers and I guess that is the biggest frustration," he said.

"Obviously these teams need advance notice. They have to sell tickets. They need to know what their capacity limit is going to be on the weekend. They can't know that on Thursday or Friday. They need to know that on Monday so that they can begin to fill the stands," Merrifield said.

Merrifield says those in the region deserve to be rewarded for numbers that continue to trend in the right direction.

"Unfortunately the same rush is not being applied in all of the jurisdictions. Fraser Health for example is going in the wrong direction yet the Vancouver Giants who play in Langley is playing to a full capacity crowd. So we are not seeing the same application of the restrictions in all jurisdictions and that is why we are asking what is the rationale and what is the criteria that we need to meet in order to see full stands."

All regions except for Northern and Interior Health and parts of the Fraser Valley are now able to attend hockey games, concerts and weddings without any limits on numbers.

Castanet has reached out to Interior Health who have yet to comment.

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