By Nicholas Johansen
The City of Kelowna is following the province's lead on when to welcome back tourists with open arms, but that could still be a number of weeks away.
While officials in places like Osoyoos and the Shuswap region have been vocal in their requests that those from out of town stay away due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelowna mayor Colin Basran said Wednesday that he takes the same position as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry when it comes to welcoming back tourists.
During Thursday's daily press conference, Dr. Henry said that after allowing some businesses to reopen last week, she's still recommending people limit their non-essential travel within British Columbia at this time.
“We are still recommending that people limit their travel. We are not yet at that two-week incubation period [of COVID-19] from when we started this, but this is a time when [...] we are going to start to slowly move a bit more," Dr. Henry said.
“So we are watching very carefully now, because as things are opening up, we may start to see cases increase. If we can do that in a slow and measured way then by the middle of June, we should be able to move out a little bit more.”
Later in her statements, Dr. Henry added that mid-June could become “maybe end of June ... and certainly July,” if the numbers of new COVID-19 cases continue to remain low in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, tourist organizations in the province are pleading for help, as the pandemic has hit the industry particularly hard.
Dr. Henry said even when she begins recommending non-essential trips within the province, it will be important to not return to the "normal" prior to the pandemic.
“It will be different, it will not be large numbers of people coming together, we will still have to have our physical distancing, our hand hygiene, our staying away when we're sick and small numbers of people so that we're not extending our contacts so much that this virus can take off,” she said.
“I'm very hopeful, I would look forward to going to Whistler myself, or one of the Gulf Islands once we get to that place.”
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