With the B.C.-wide mask mandate ending at midnight tonight, Kelowna businesses will be seeing an immediate change of scenery.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the lifting of a number of restrictions on Mar. 10, which also included the elimination of mandatory vaccine passports on April 8.
Capital News spoke to Downtown Kelowna Association Executive Director Mark Burley on what these announcements might mean to businesses in the downtown core.
Burley said that although he is pleased to hear about the immediate mask mandate lifting, something he didn’t expect to happen so soon, he would have rathered see the vaccine passports eliminated first for the sake of downtown businesses.
“We didn’t expect the masks to be so quick, but I honestly expected to see the vaccine passports be the first to go,” said Burley. “It’s a good thing though we had the mask mandate lifted because it means that many more people, who don’t like to move around wearing masks, can get out and visit our businesses.”
Despite the provincial removal of restrictions, businesses will still have the right to mandate masks at their discretion. Burley said he is unsure how many businesses downtown might actually do so, though they do have the right.
“It’s not only affected the downtown core, it’s affected everybody. People who don’t like to wear masks, people who feel uncomfortable wearing them. People aren’t going out as much as they would have, and now that these mask mandates are gone, then maybe we’ll get more people out and moving around.
“It’s just a positive sign that we’re moving towards the end of the pandemic.”
The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce also released their own statement on the easing of the orders, saying that they are pleased as well.
“We are certain the business community will feel positive about these changes but remind government that for some businesses and in some sectors, it may take years for them to fully recover from the impact of the pandemic,” said Pamela Pearson, incoming president. “Importantly for the Chamber, it means we can all gather once again and enjoy our networking even more.”
Executive Director Dan Rogers added that the end of the vaccine passports will also “likely be well received.”
“Not just because it will allow everyone to access those businesses, but also because it will remove a time-consuming task that was imposed on the business when the government introduced the passport system.”