After repeated assurances from Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix that the Easter long weekend ferry traffic was largely essential, some Vancouver Island authorities are still concerned this may have not been the case.
Multiple mayors of Vancouver Island municipalities — including the mayors of Victoria, Saanich, View Royal, Highlands, and North Saanich — and every CRD chair member have written a letter addressed to Dr. Henry in response to her statements about long weekend travel.
The letter states that despite calls for those wishing to travel for leisure to stay home and not visit island communities over the Easter long weekend, there is “compelling anecdotal evidence” that the majority of people who used BC Ferries were mainlanders who chose to come to the island despite clear directives against doing so.
“In the weeks leading up to Easter, elected representatives from across our coastal region repeatedly asked non-Islanders to stay away, on the understanding that many of our smaller communities simply do not have the health care capacity to deal with COVID-19 should their populations become infected,” reads the letter.
“But it is quite clear those requests were ignored; there were numerous instances over this past weekend of longer-than-normal lineups at retail outlets, liquor stores, and other establishments.”
According to the municipal leaders, the visitors put a strain on grocery store inventories and other essential resources in some communities, thereby depriving community residents of necessary products.
The letter goes on to point out that coastal communities have a largely older population which could be severely affected by an outbreak if the virus is transmitted by non-essential travellers coming from harder hit regions on the mainland.
To stop such an outbreak in the future, the letter asks Dr. Bonnie Henry to “enact a Public Health Order prior to the upcoming May long weekend that would restrict long weekend usage (defined as Thursday through Tuesday) to ‘essential travel only’ on the BC Ferry system.”
This request is contingent upon the public health emergency remaining in place beyond May 15th.
The letter is also addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, various federal provincial ministers, as well as the CEO of BC Ferries, as the signatories are unsure which authority has the power to enact such an order.
It was dated April 14th, after health officials cited lower than normal BC Ferries long weekend traffic in their assurance that the province has been united in “keeping our firewall strong”, and reminded the public that many people were travelling for essential purposes.
Health Minister Adrian Dix stated that BC ferries has reported 92 per cent decline for travel on major routes over the 2020 Easter long weekend compared the same time period last year.
Here is the full letter from municipal leaders on Vancouver Island:
The BCCDC has set up a 2019 novel coronavirus telephone information line at 1-833-784-4397 for those who have further questions about this disease.
Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, should contact their primary care provider, local public health office, or call 8-1-1.
The Province has also created the 1-888-COVID-19 line to connect British Columbians needing non-medical information about the coronavirus pandemic.
As of the time of publication, the total number of COVID-19 patients worldwide has risen to 2,072,269.
Over 133,800 people have died from the illness and 508,826 have made a full recovery.