Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said all gyms must close under her public health order related to the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
A handful of gym owners in Kamloops are defying the public health order and remain open, with spokesmen for five of the fitness facilities citing the mental health of their clients and the apparent inconsistency of health orders.
“For many, including me, physical activity and going to a gym or fitness centre is a key part of the mental and physical well-being,” Henry said on Friday (Dec. 24) in response to a question from KTW about whether any allowances will be made for gyms to stay open.
The public health order is in effect until at least Jan. 18.
“I know this has impacted people that required these to be closed on a temporary basis right now,” Henry said. “This is a very high-risk period. We see this is transmitting rapidly, particularly in young people, and I know those in the gym community have been doing their part and gyms and fitness centres have had real good protocols in place.”
Henry urged people to stay connected online or through activities outside.
Henry said there is no option for gyms and fitness centres to remain open under the order to close.
“Gyms must close during this period,” she said.”There are things that we can do — and my gym does it very, very well — to connect people, to be able to support us having that physical activity remotely right now.”
Henry said Omicron is spreading rapidly in indoor environments, even when there is plenty of space and all protocols are being followed.
Henry said she met with representatives of the gym and fitness industry on Dec. 23.
“They have been leading in making sure that we can do things as safely as possible,” she said.
“Right now, we’re in a place of real uncertainty, with a lot of transmission in younger people — the demographic that really is connected to their gyms — so they must, right now, stop that.”
Henry said the focus is on indoor settings, where people are exerting.
“We are seeing a lot of transmission now through the very small droplets and aerosols and the measures that we had in place that were working for Delta and for the other variants that we’ve seen are just not enough at the moment.”
Businesses that defy public health orders can be fined or closed.
The provincial government has said violation tickets can be issued by police officers, community safety unit officers, liquor and cannabis inspectors, gaming investigators, conservation officers and WorkSafeBC investigators.
Fines of $2,300 can be issued, the province said, noting that police can recommend charges against repeat offenders. If convicted, a business owner could face penalties of up to $10,000 and/or one year in prison. In addition, the province said, local governments may be asked to revoking business or liquor licences.