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Kelowna Chamber, MLAs demand answers from Interior Health about regional capacity limits

The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce has joined five Thompson-Okanagan MLAs in demanding answers from Interior Health regarding capacity limits for certain events.

It comes after Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced this week that indoor and outdoor events in British Columbia will be allowed to return to 100 per cent capacity from Monday, with attendees required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Dr. Henry said that in the Interior and Northern Health regions, however, separate health orders mean capacity limits will remain in place.

Interior Health is yet to clarify if its 50 per cent capacity restrictions will remain in place.

The Kelowna Chamber said Interior hockey teams could now stand to lose “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in revenue while the likes of the Vancouver Giants and Victoria Royals gain an advantage.

<who> Photo credit: File

Meanwhile five MLAs from Kelowna and Kamloops – Renee Merrifield, Peter Milobar, Todd Stone, Ben Stewart and Norm Letnick – have written to Interior Health’s interim chief medical health officer requesting answers about capacity limits.

They asked Dr. Sue Pollock to specify Interior Health’s “rationale” for more restrictive capacity limits, explain what would trigger a change in the limits and justify a potential decision to keep the 50 per cent capacity limit in place.

The MLAs said the Kelowna Rockets and Kamloops Blazers are “at a loss to understand” why they are unable to operate at full capacity.

“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 states.

The Kelowna Chamber said its members are “confused” about why the restrictions are remaining in place.

“Our understanding when the proof of vaccination card program was introduced was that events restricted to fully vaccinated attendees would be able to expand capacity and we expected to hear that announcement next week,” the organization explained.

“As it stands today, many are left wondering if this means that someone who is attending a Western Hockey League game in Kelowna, Kamloops or Prince George is at higher risk than someone who is attending a Canucks game.”

The Chamber added: “Not having the same increase in capacity as other clubs in the Western Hockey League like the Victoria Royals and Vancouver Giants puts the Interior franchises at a significant disadvantage and will potentially cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

“There will also be lost economic benefits that flow to the hospitality sector from those attending major sporting and entertainment events.”

The Chamber said it is “optimistic” that Interior Health will shortly announce that it will loosen the restrictions.



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