Stay off Vancouver Island, for now.
That’s the message from municipal leaders up and down the island.
They’re pushing for the federal and provincial governments to clamp down on non-essential travel during the May long weekend.
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring received wide-spread support for his plan to send a letter to Ottawa and Victoria to call for tighter restrictions on who can use BC Ferries for holiday long weekend trips.
Siebring says that it includes more than 20 mayors on Vancouver Island and seven regional district chairs.
He says municipal leaders from Saanich and Victoria, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Comox and Courtenay, and all the way up to Port Hardy and Port McNeill are “concerned at what happened this past weekend and we want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells weighed in, saying the impacts of the Easter long weekend travel won’t be felt right away.
“We won’t know what the effects of the travel on the Easter long weekend (will be) for two weeks,” Wells said. “That’s when we expect to see the incubation period and people coming up with infections.”
Wells said “it hit people pretty hard on the island when they heard that ferries were at 90 percent or even full capacity.”
He added that the COVID-19 infection rate has been kept “pretty low” because people are heeding the Provincial Health Officer’s advice to stay home and maintain physical distances.
He said now is the time to double down on these safety measures to keep “the curve as flat as possible,” and seeing visitors coming from the mainland last weekend makes it a challenge for islanders.
Wells is now joining other leaders in saying that now is not the time to explore British Columbia.
“This is not the time to discover Comox Valley,” he said. “Once we get through the pandemic, absolutely, I think that is a great thing to do. We really want to kick start the economy once we get through this, but for right now we really want people to stay safe, stay home, and stay human.”
Meanwhile, Siebring says that based on what was observed during the past weekend, it could be a problem throughout the summer.
He says they want “clear guidelines on what is essential travel and then clear some guidelines on what is enforcement.”
– With files from Mike Patterson