UPDATE: Fraser Health has responded to the Abbotsford News to say that the Abbotsford Flea Market, as well as other flea markets and Christmas markets that are held indoors, do not currently need to ask for vaccine passports. That could change in the future, they said, as new regulations are developed due to the new Omicron variant.
The Abbotsford Flea Market has been forced to close down for the holiday season out of concerns about COVID-19.
This weekend marked the second Sunday that market owner Rod Stoner has had to keep doors shut, after hearing from Fraser Health about vaccine passport guidelines.
The flea market, located at the Abbotsford Exhibition Park on Haida Drive, was not asking either vendors or visitors to show vaccination status to enter. Fraser Health had received complaints, he said, and those were passed onto him by Fraser Health staff.
While Stoner said he understands the concerns, and that he and his family are all double vaccinated, he says it’s a shame they had to close while other shopping places can stay open.
There are no requirements for vaccination to shop in a grocery store or mall, and several indoor Christmas markets have been able to run this season without the vaccination requirements. While there is a resale element at the flea market, it is also a market for food and new retail items.
There are plenty of things Stoner has done to make the flea market safer for everyone. First off, they closed for about six months at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. When they returned to business, it was outdoor only.
“We had everybody spaced out and then toward the end of (this) summer, we got back inside the building,” he said. “We just made sure we spaced the tables out, and the city let us set up without the vax pass.”
They are already down to about half capacity of vendors, he said. And the crowds of the past are not to be found, as many people choose to stay away from markets now.
“The crowds are way down,” he said. “We’ve done everything we’re supposed to do.”
There is a list of rules for vendors and guests on their website, including not attending if you feel unwell, mandatory mask wearing, one-way walking signage, regular announcements about distancing, and hand sanitizer available throughout.
Stoner said he is responsible for coordinating about 300 vendors who show up each week to sell their homemade goods, used goods and food products. For many of them, he added, it’s a bit of supplemental income for small pensions.
“This is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said, but he’s resigned to the reality that the virus remains a threat.
He wants to know if his flea market has been a known transmission site, but Fraser Health hasn’t gotten back to him, he said. And he doesn’t want to ask his long time vendors to get vaccinated or leave. It was discussed at one point, and didn’t go well.
He has been keeping everyone apprised of the situation through the market’s Facebook page, and hopes to get going again when he can do safely and within the appropriate guidelines.
“Maybe there is a problem that I’m not seeing, but again, I’m not getting any call backs to get any answers,” he said. “I kind of feel like we’re being unfairly picked on.”
Fraser Health has responded to a request for comment to say they are looking into the issue.
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