Highways, ferries filled with long weekend travelers despite requests to stay at home

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The road outside Maggie O’Shaughnessy’s house on Galiano Island was busy on Friday as visitors ignored calls from health officials and islanders to stay home for the long week -end to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“It is a small island. It’s easy to tell who lives here and who doesn’t, “said the yoga instructor on the phone. “I work in my garden and watch the car loads go by. They are almost ashamed. “

O’Shaughnessy, a former registered nurse, was concerned that a visitor might inadvertently spread the virus to residents of Galiano, many of whom are elderly.

“We have a fantastic clinic here, but it is not equipped for a sudden increase in the number of people,” she said. “People have to take this seriously.”

Others on the island reported the number of cars arriving by ferry and called British Columbia. Ferries to help you.

In response, B.C. Ferries said they were not allowed to restrict travel: “This directive will have to come from the provincial government.”

BC. Ferries have significantly reduced departures on all routes since the start of the pandemic, signaling an 80% drop in traffic. They also reduced the number of passengers on board by 50% to allow physical distance.

But on Friday, about 30 minutes before departure, the 11-hour ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay was 94% full and 5:00 p.m. navigation was almost 80% full at noon.

At Swartz Bay, the departure at 9:00 a.m. for Tsawwassen was delayed at 9:10 a.m. due to heavy traffic. At 1 p.m. the navigation was 70% full.

On its website, B.C. Ferries said, “We ask customers to stay home unless their trip is essential. “

BC. Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said, “We’ve seen a few situations where there have been small overloads in the past two days.

“Many small communities are asking tourists not to visit for the moment and we are asking our customers to respect these requests.”

In an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and to British Columbia. Prime Minister John Horgan, MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith Green, Paul Manly, asked them to restrict and enforce non-essential ferry traffic.

He said he was deeply troubled by reports of a large number of travelers traveling to Vancouver Island via British Columbia. Ferries. “It is clear that too many people ignore the directive from both levels of government to stay at home,” wrote Manly in his letter.

“It can no longer just be a request for people to stay at home,” he wrote. “The government must restrict travel and enforce this restriction.”

Tofino’s mayor Josie Osborne said that only a “small net” of foreigners was traveling to Tofino this weekend.

Tofino, Ucluelet and the region are assisted by RCMP and Parks Canada guards who have set up an “information station” at the junction leading to the tourist towns.

Of 50 cars stopped Thursday and Friday, most were residents or essential workers, said Osborne. “A number of cars have turned around and left,” she said. She thought that some private vacation rentals were busy, but very few.

Beyond that, there were a “handful” of people visiting second homes, as well as some just taking a car ride from Victoria or Duncan, for example, said Osborne. “Most of the reports are very calm,” she said.

Osborne congratulated the hotels, motels, resorts and campgrounds for their closure. “We have received incredible support from the accommodation. It has been so difficult for them, but they are 100% behind what we are trying to do on the coast in terms of protecting the vulnerable and preserving all of our health care resources for the COVID-19 pandemic. “

Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom said his city and others were concerned not only about their residents, but also about tourists infected or spreading the virus.

“One of my good friends saw a six-person van entering our local grocery store, IGA, and they had all kinds of camping gear on their pickup truck,” she said. “And we saw other plates outside the city. “

Last weekend, regional district staff were called upon to close campsites occupied by groups of people.

Wickstrom said the tourism-dependent city strikes a delicate balance by telling people to stay away during the pandemic. “It’s a strange dance we’re doing right now,” she said. “We try to be firm, but diplomatic, with our messages. “

At Tree House Cafe in Purvis Lane, Salt Spring Island, Kechura Davidson said she saw mostly locals at the cafe on Friday, but heard reports from campers getting their supplies from the grocery store.

“We will see what the weekend brings,” said Davidson. “Hopefully they are not tourists. “

BC. Parks closed all provincial parks after physical distance measurements in the wild failed.

“We have tried to provide a safe space for people to exercise and fresh air in our beautiful parks, but it has proven too difficult to maintain a safe distance between visitors”, BC Environment Minister George Heyman said.

BC. Parks Canada has extended the ban on camping in provincial parks until May 31.

– with files by Tiffany Crawford



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