Islands Trust map. (Supplied by Islands Trust)
Now is not the time to visit the southern and gulf islands.
So says Islands Trust Council Chair Peter Luckham, with the growing threat of the COVID-19 virus.
Luckham said he’s calling for people to stay away for the safety of both islanders and potential visitors.
“Certainly some people are travelling to the islands, thinking that would be a good place to go on their time off, and the trouble is, there are limited or no resources available to support an influx of visitors at this time,” he said.
“Our first responders are tasked mostly to look after the residents and certainly visitors when necessary, and any of the grocery stores or facilities that we have, have limited supplies and our restaurants and pubs and the like are all closed. So it’s just taxing on the local resources and quite honestly probably disappointing for the individuals to come here to find there is nothing happening here.”
The Islands Trust is a federation of local governments serving islands in the Salish Sea, including Denman Island and Hornby Island.
Luckham points out that most Gulf Islands have a median age of over 60 years old and have limited or no medical services.
“First responders are volunteers who are practicing sheltering in place in order to be available for normal emergencies. We urge everyone to stay home and avoid discretionary travel to and from the islands,” Luckham added.
“As ferry-dependent communities, we are especially vulnerable and face additional challenges. Now is not the time to take a holiday or visit your vacation property.”
Many of the islands’ businesses, including restaurants, are understocked, understaffed, and closing down or significantly limiting their services.
BC Ferries has also cut back on sailings to the Southern Gulf Islands.
People visiting island properties from private boats are encouraged to return to their homes to reduce the need for medical evacuations.
“On behalf of all British Columbians, the Islands Trust works to preserve and protect over 450 islands in the Salish Sea,” Luckham added. “We now ask British Columbians to protect islanders and yourselves by staying home. We look forward to welcoming visitors again when it is safe to do so.”