Last week, a group of 24 Mayors representing communities on Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands sent a letter to the provincial health officer, Premier, and other provincial authorities in B.C.
This letter addressed concerns sparked by travellers heading to Vancouver Island for leisure over the Easter long weekend in, citing anecdotal evidence to suggest that vacationers were disobeying orders to avoid non-essential travel and were responsible for depleting resources at small town stores.
Looking to the future, the municipal leaders requested harsher restrictions for people using BC Ferries to travel to Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands and asked the Dr. Bonnie Henry to issue a public health order that would restrict May long weekend usage (defined as Thursday the 14th through Tuesday the 19th) to essential travel only.
While the province has not officially responded to the mayors who sent that letter, Premier John Horgan did answer our question regarding his thoughts on the subject, confirming that travel restrictions to island communities is not a priority at the moment.
“I am aware of island mayors having significant concerns,” said Horgan, reminding us that he himself is a Vancouver Island resident.
“We’ll be looking at it very closely, but the May long weekend is a thousand years away based on my daily schedule.”
He reiterated that travel over Easter long weekend saw a 92 per cent decline compared to the same time period in 2019, and stated that as May long weekend looms closer, communities across B.C. will see a host of new “positive initiatives” that could mean ferry travel restrictions will no longer be required.
The Premier added that while he did not wish to be dismissive of the issue, the upcoming long weekend is weeks from now and that he is “living this [crisis] day by day”.
Horgan also responded to concerns that the outbreak in Alert Bay, a remote village on Cormorant Island located northeast of Vancouver Island, was caused by travellers.
“Those very travellers may well have been local residents who left Alert Bay to go shopping in [various Vancouver Island cities] and returned and brought the virus with them,” he said.
“It’s not just people from away who can contract the virus, it’s also people within those communities.”
For that reason, he says the province is reluctant to impose any travel restrictions beyond those already put in place.
As a result of their outbreak, the village of Alert Bay has declared a local state of emergency and imposed a curfew that requires residents to be indoors from 9:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.
This state of emergency exists in the Village of Alert Bay and the Regional District of Mount Waddington until midnight on Friday, April 24th, 2020 unless otherwise stated.
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 2,635,131.
Over 184,000 people have died from the illness and 717,357 have made a full recovery.