Open burns are now banned in the Penticton area and elsewhere as officials try to protect air quality as an additional layer of defence against COVID-19.

The province-wide ban, which applies to populated areas deemed “high sensitivity,” was ordered Thursday by the Ministry of Environment.

“Evidence suggests that air pollution from combustion sources is most strongly associated with increased risk of viral infection, particularly vehicle emissions and biomass burning,” the ministry said in a press release.

“At this time the BC Centre for Disease Control strongly recommends that open burning of biomass fuels be restricted in areas with high or moderate risk of population exposure to the resulting smoke.”