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B.C. struggles to contain COVID-19 spread in street populations

Vernon, Kelowna, Prince George running out of space
Tent camp at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria, April 2021. B.C. communities are struggling with COVID-19 infection among people living in tents or on the street. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

The B.C. government has leased another motel in Prince George to provide inside shelter space for people on the street or in tents who are infected with COVID-19, Attorney General David Eby says.

Last week’s establishment of 50 new isolation spaces in Victoria is being extended to other communities where available shelter beds for infected people are running out, particularly in the B.C. Interior Eby said Monday. Vernon and Kelowna are among those “very close to the line” along with Victoria, he said.

“The hope is that we will continue to have enough space for people who are COVID-positive to come inside, and we want to avoid at all costs people who have to shelter in place in a tent, for example, or to be in the streets and COVID-positive,” Eby told reporters at the B.C. legislature Oct. 4.

The ministry announced Oct. 4 that a Prince George motel has been leased to provide 44 shelter spaces to get people out of a tent camp. As with Victoria, where it was estimated that fewer than one in three un-housed people were vaccinated, B.C. Housing is offering gift cards as one incentive.

“One of the big challenges has been getting vaccines for people that have very low levels of trust for authorities of all kinds, including health care and hospitals,” Eby said. “They have new initiatives they’re trying like using gift cards to encourage people to get vaccinated.”

RELATED: 50 new isolation pods coming for Victoria’s un-housed

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