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Central Okanagan bars, nightclubs ordered to close as COVID-19 cases surge

In the last week, COVID-19 cases tripled in the Central Okanagan, health officials say
The Central Okanagan seen from the top of Knox Mountain in Kelowna. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press Media file)

One week after officials declared a COVID-19 outbreak in the Central Okanagan, officials are increasing restrictions due to surging infections.

The outbreak has almost tripled to approximately 1,200 cases within the last week, Interior Health (IH) chief medical officer Dr. Sue Pollock confirmed. The majority of the new cases are unvaccinated British Columbians between 20 and 40 years old.

Effective immediately, patrons at restaurants will be limited to groups of six or fewer, while nightclubs and bars will be closed until further notice unless serving food. Liquor service at restaurants will be suspended at 10 p.m.

Low-intensity fitness studios can remain open and operational, provided they have a COVID-19 safety plan in place, though capacity is limited. High-intensity fitness centres have been ordered closed until further notice.

Vacation rentals and houseboats will be limited to five visitors. Those with plans to visit the area from other parts of B.C. or Canada are encouraged to reschedule especially if they are unimmunized.

Personal indoor gatherings are now limited to five people from another household, while outdoor gatherings have a limit of 50 people. Masks will continue to be required in public indoor places and crowded outdoor public spaces.

READ MORE: COVID-19 back at Kelowna long-term care facilities

The Delta variant has driven the Central Okanagan outbreak, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

“We’ve started to see that about 80 per cent of the cases in Interior Health are the Delta strain,” she said.

“And we know that it can spread so much more easily and that is driving the rapid transmission in younger people.

“We know the people in this age group were the last to access the vaccine… we also know this age group of people is the most connected, whether that be through work, social connections, through family, through children.”

Pollock said that despite a more concerted effort to vaccinate more people and reinstating the mask mandate, the region hasn’t seen improvement in cases. Due to the more infectious strain, the virus has crept back into long-term care facilities, with two new outbreaks announced this week.

“This is impacting our staffing at hospitals and in the community,” Pollock said.

“It’s preventing people from accessing home and community care services and it’s beginning to impact health care services throughout the region.”

Along with the new restrictions, Henry and Pollock are asking those who are able to get the vaccine to walk into a clinic and get it done as soon as possible to protect themselves and those around them.

“We’re calling on all the young adults living in our communities across the Central Okanagan, especially those of you who work in jobs where you interact with the public, to please come out and get your vaccine,” she said.

“We’ll make it as easy as we can for you to do that. It’s the most effective way to bring the Central Okanagan outbreak under control.”

The new restrictions will now be enforceable by bylaw officers and environmental health officers throughout the Central Okanagan, including Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland and Lake Country.

READ MORE: Pop-up vaccine clinic at Kelowna Farmers’ Market


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Twila Amato

About the Author: Twila Amato

Twila was a radio reporter based in northern Vancouver Island. She won the Jack Webster Student Journalism Award while at BCIT and received a degree in ancient and modern Greek history from McGill University.
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