A month after the Canada Day outbreak, Kelowna struggles to balance tourism and the meaning of COVID-19

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Kelowna is known for its beaches, vineyards, golf courses, and stunning views – a perfect summer getaway – but this long weekend, there’s also fear of welcoming tourists as the city continues to grapple with the effects of the weather. training of a COVID-19 epidemic.Indoor gatherings and private parties around Canada Day have resulted in at least 130 new COVID-19 infections and forced 1,000 people to self-isolate, according to public health officials who are reinforcing messages on socializing safely since then.

The outbreak has also led to new rules regarding restaurants, bars and nightclubs, and new restrictions limiting the number of people allowed on rental properties and boats, including houseboats.

“We can make this BC Day vacation weekend a weekend where we find the right balance: having those important social connections with our friends and family, while taking precautions to protect ourselves.” and protect those around us, ”said Bonnie Henry, provincial health administrator, and BC Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a written statement released Friday, while announcing 50 more cases.

In downtown Kelowna, city officials are now patrolling popular spaces to make sure people use common sense – keeping bubbles small, maintaining physical distance, and wearing masks. City staff have so far responded to 600 complaints about physical distancing, but so far no fines have been imposed.

Cruise operator Mike Reddecliffe said that while B.C.’s gradual reopening has allowed tourists to get to town, business has dried up as weddings and corporate events have been canceled. (Tom Popyk / CBC)

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said this weekend would be a tough test for a city so dependent on summer visitors. He said the city relies on provincial authority – and recognizes the need to maintain its vital tourism industry while preventing a second outbreak.

« [Henry]She’s the one in control here, she’s the one in charge, and she’s the one who doesn’t think there should be different rules for Kelowna and we agree with that, ”he said. he says.

Over the past few weeks, a number of photos of revelers breaking the rules and partying in large groups have been posted on social media, sparking now-familiar shame and condemnation.

“We are telling tourists and residents to continue to be vigilant and act as if people near you have the virus. It’s up to everyone as an individual to do their part, so it’s a shame that some people still don’t get it, ”Basran said.

While the RCMP said in a statement that they respond to noise complaints from parties as they would at any other time, it is not their role to enforce COVID-19 regulations. And short-term rental company Airbnb said that while it said no parties were allowed in its rentals, law enforcement is up to individual hosts.

Local tourism operators are hit hard

Cruise operator Mike Reddecliffe said that while B.C.’s gradual reopening has seen tourists flock to the city en masse, business has dried up as weddings and corporate events have been canceled. .

“The COVID-19 regulations kind of crushed that, which is understandable, but it’s kind of a blow to us,” he said.

Reddecliffe said his company still offers public cruises, where he can make sure everyone on the boat is seated and spaced. But new restrictions imposed after the start of the Canada Day epidemic, including a dance floor ban, have led to the cancellation of private events that make up a large chunk of his income.

Reddecliffe said it was frustrating to watch boaters continue to bend the rules, hoping for a seemingly normal day on the water, while local businesses willingly take financial blows to keep them safe.

“People are going to find a way to party on a boat that’s not so [visible] like our boat – other barges, smaller boats, they’re coming. We have the contact tracing, we have a manifesto that we keep on board. If something were to happen, we could give it to BCCDC, ”he said.

Reddecliffe said that on what is usually one of the busiest weekends of the summer, he is now just hoping to break even.

“It’s unfortunate that it happens to companies like mine when we’re trying to do the right thing. “

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