B.C.’s latest COVID-19 public health order closing fitness facilities along with liquor-primary bars and night clubs is set to expire on Tuesday, and yoga and gym operators and customers are calling for the closures to end.
After some gym operators defied the latest order, a petition from a Metro Vancouver fitness business calling for the province to show the evidence for closures or end them has gathered almost 50,000 signatures.
The closures were imposed in late December as spread of the Omicron variant was taking off and the amount of serious illness resulting from them was unknown. Data released Jan. 14 from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control showed the Omicron fifth wave of infections has peaked in B.C., as it has in other provinces and around the world.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry declined to comment on changes coming in a briefing scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 18.
“I’m going to defer the Tuesday question to Tuesday,” Henry said Jan. 14 in response to questions about fitness facility closures. “I do think this spring, we’re going to be in a different position across Canada, across North America, across much of Europe. The caveat that we have is that this virus continues to change and modify itself, and surprise us in many ways — persist, as well.”
Henry said business safety plans for distance and capacity can be expected to stay in place for some time, but the closures and restrictions are constantly being reviewed as more is known about the latest variant. Hospitalizations have risen sharply in recent weeks with the surge in Omicron infections, but a data sample from Vancouver Coastal Health released Friday found that nearly half of the new patients were admitted for other health issues, and COVID-19 infection was discovered through hospital testing of all new admissions.
“In December, when we were looking at this curve going up and there were so many unknowns that we needed to take action that would protect our health care system as much as possible and account for the worst-case scenarios that could happen,” Henry said. “We try and do that in a measured way and finding that balance between not interfering with the things that we do in society that are so important for us, including the economy.”