City Hall Vandalism; screenshot from Castanet

Anti-lockdown protests in Kelowna have resulted in City Hall being vandalised with COVID-19 hoax messages protesting lockdown measures. These spray-painted messages were found during the early morning of October 27 and read “NO NEW NORMAL COVID IS A PLANDEMIC”. Similarly, the second statement read “I WANT BREATH[E] FRESH AIR AND LIVE FRE[E] COVID HAS A 99.9% SURVI[V]AL RATE ECONOMIC COLLAPSE DOES NOT”.

This vandalism had followed stricter COVID-19 enforcements due to the spike in cases in the province. Currently, this act is being investigated and officials have classified this behaviour as criminal, as stated by Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy of the Kelowna RCMP. This act will also cost taxpayers thousands of dollars to clean up, ironic considering the protester was protesting “economic collapse”.

In response to this act of vandalism, UBCO student Sriya Pulikanti had the following to say: “So many people are affected by COVID-19, they [the protestor] probably just want to rant to the government. Maybe because of the government’s response to the pandemic, they were just frustrated or angry; maybe they were just sad or depressed. However, they could have said it differently. This was mean and they vandalised property, they are not being civil citizens.”

As Pulikanti states, it is completely understandable for people to be sad or angry with the circumstances, however it could have been expressed in a much more respectable manner.

In addition, UBCO student Maria Lammerding also expressed her opinion on the hoax messages, particularly the part that references the 99.9% survival rate.

“The extreme focus on how many people live and who die during this pandemic is incredibly frustrating. This is a completely new virus and health professionals, scientists, and epidemiologists don’t know what to expect from it. Reports are coming in from many countries about varying long-term effects. Some people have lost their sense of smell, have cognitive issues, and, of course, massive lung issues. A doctor told my friend that her recent chronic fatigue is most likely a result of having had COVID-19.”

Lammerding continued by stating, “Many people who do recover will still be dealing with health issues, some quite serious, long after a vaccine or antiviral is discovered. As such, we don’t know what the health of our communities is going to look like once the pandemic is done. Too much is unknown to take the situation lightly. We need to be talking about people’s health as a whole. Not just about whether they survive.”

The 99.9% survival rate that Lammerding was referring to is a misleading belief that countries have survival rates of 99.9% for people who have contracted this virus. This statistic accompanies the claim that people and countries are panicking for no reason. However, this belief was marked as inaccurate and misleading by multiple sources for various reasons, one reason being that survival rates are fluctuating and remain unknown.

On the same note as Lammerding, Tom Wilson, an official from the City of Kelowna, had a similar message regarding the health risks of this pandemic. Wilson referenced the validity of the hoax messages and encouraged UBCO students to remain vigilant against this pandemic through the following statement:

“We live in a democracy and everyone is entitled to their opinion, but we believe legitimate debate on issues is best done in broad daylight, not under the cover of darkness. The “hoax” vandalism loses credibility for that reason alone, not to mention the scientific evidence that contradicts the notion that this is not a serious public health threat.

As a municipal government, we rely on the advice and recommendations of provincial medical health professionals who have the benefit of scientific data to guide their decisions. From the beginning of this pandemic, they have provided very basic and easy-to-follow guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

When we all follow that advice, we prevent the spread. At the end of June, after months of efforts to stop the spread, B.C. had 158 active cases of the virus. Now, we’re well over 2,300 because people are not following the direction of provincial health officers.

Older people and those with underlying health conditions are most vulnerable to the virus, but people of all ages need to respect the contagious nature of this virus and how easily it is spread if we don’t stay home if feeling ill, wash our hands, keep a physical distance from others and wear a mask when that is not possible.”

Although everyone has a right to free speech, the measure this person/s took to express their frustrations was extreme. Opinions about these enforcements could have been shared in a much more civil manner without violating a public building with hoax messages. Not only does this spread false information, but it could potentially harm numerous individuals if people believe in these messages. It is better to err on the side of caution and respect the enforcements and other people’s health because, as Wilson insinuated, numbers are only going to continue climbing if we do not follow proper precautions.