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West Kelowna MLA calls on B.C. government to reopen gyms

MLA wants gyms open

Kelowna West MLA Ben Stewart has sent a letter to the Minister of Health asking that gyms across the province have permission to open their doors.

The letter, which was drafted on January 10, claims there is a lack of data surrounding the spread of COVID-19 in gyms and fitness facilities.

"At the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic, gyms and fitness centres were closed for three months. Since their reopening, gym and fitness owners have put in place the BC PHO mandated safeguards to protect their customers," Stewart wrote.

Stewart says his constituency office has received many phone calls and emails from frustrated clients and owners.

"Gyms and fitness centres are critical for the physical and mental health for the constituents of Kelowna West, especially when going out for a walk is not a safe option due to a lack of snow clearing, icy roads and sidewalks," he added.

Stewart says facilities should be able to work with the BC Public Health Office to mitigate exposure concerns.

"On Friday January 7, in her public media briefing, Dr. Bonnie Henry alluded that the BC PHO's concern is the younger age demographic who frequent B.C. gyms. Perhaps the BC PHO could give the gym and fitness owners the opportunity to manage this by booking for their gym members."

"I respectfully request that gym closures be reversed immediately on behalf of our gym owners and the residents that need them," he added.

Dr. Henry ordered gyms in B.C. to close on Dec. 22 amid a surge in cases driven by the Omicron variant. The closure is slated to last until at least January 18.

Iron Energy Fitness in West Kelowna is one of several gyms that have defied public health orders across the province. On January 10 the gym was fined $2,300 for non-compliance and issued an additional closure order by interior Health. They remain in operation.

When asked on Jan. 4 for evidence related to the transmission of COVID-19 in gyms, Henry could not offer specifics.

“I can't tell you every single case that's been linked to a gym, but we can tell you that there that we've seen this as a pattern, that these are environments that are higher risk," she said.

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