Restrictions on gatherings specific to Interior Health are being relaxed as the province’s COVID-19 vaccine card program comes into effect.
“That extra layer of protection means we can now start going back to those activities in the Interior Health that had been restricted over the last little while as cases increased,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry during a Monday, Sept. 13 press conference.
The province imposed several regional restrictions on the Central Okanagan in late July, most of them expanding across the Interior Health Authority in mid-August. Henry said those orders would be amended to allow for exemptions for businesses and events that use the vaccine card to ensure attendees are vaccinated.
According to Interior Health, as of Monday, participants of smaller organized events in the region will now be required to show their vaccine card, proving they’ve received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. After Oct. 24, full vaccination will be required. Indoor events may be held with up to 50 people, and up to 100 people can go to outdoor events.
For larger events, full vaccination is required. Such events will be allowed to have either 50 people or 50 per cent of the venue’s capacity indoors or 5,000 people or half-capacity outdoors.
High-intensity group exercise classes in the Interior are now permitted if all participants and instructors are fully vaccinated. All other fitness and exercise classes require proof of a minimum of one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine until Oct. 24, after which two doses will be required.
Alcohol service in the Central Okanagan is returning to regular hours, with businesses again allowed to serve after 10 p.m.
Some of the regional restrictions remain in place and the health authority says they will continue to be enforced until the region has lower case counts and higher vaccination rates.
Gatherings in vacation rentals are still limited to five guests or one additional family, as are indoor personal gatherings. Outdoor personal gatherings, such as barbecues and birthday parties, are capped at 50 people. Non-essential travel to the Interior also remains discouraged, except for those who are fully vaccinated.
“Thank you to everyone across the Interior who continues to help slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Interior Health president and CEO Susan Brown. “However, we can’t let our guard down now. Getting vaccinated and being able to show proof of vaccination is how we can now resume some events and activities safely and with more people.”
Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the proof of vaccination program on Aug. 30, citing statistics that show 90 per cent of new coronavirus cases are in people who haven’t been fully vaccinated.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with further information from Interior Health at 6 p.m.