The B.C. Ferries vessel Coastal Inspiration. (Black Press Media file photo)

Premier hopeful further restrictions on long weekend ferry travel won’t be needed

‘I don’t want to be dismissive about it,’ but May long weekend is weeks away, premier says

B.C. Premier John Horgan is hesitant about implementing stricter ferry restrictions and is hopeful it will be unnecessary by the time the May long weekend rolls around.

During his daily COVID-19 briefing on April 22, Horgan was asked to respond to a letter sent by North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring on April 14 calling for Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to order stricter ferry travel restrictions for long weekends during the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Vancouver Island leaders plead for stronger long weekend ferry restrictions

Siebring’s letter, endorsed by more than 30 other Island leaders, explained that while the messaging regarding non-essential travel was clear, some ignored the orders and travelled to Vancouver Island over the Easter long weekend – raising red flags for Island leaders. Siebring wrote that not only could visitors bring COVID-19 to small Island communities whose health care systems aren’t equipped to handle an influx of patients but travellers could also put a strain on necessary resources.

To ensure the upcoming summer long weekends don’t bring another influx of travellers, Siebring asked Henry to restrict passage on BC Ferries to “essential travel only” over long weekends during the pandemic.

Horgan said he’s hesitant to implement restrictions beyond what Henry has already ordered – “if your travel is non-essential, stay home” – because he feels if British Columbians adhere to her orders “we’ll be fine.”

READ ALSO: B.C. Ferries busy on long weekend, even during pandemic

“I am aware of Island mayors having some significant concerns,” relating to infections in small communities and the impact of travellers on the local supply chain, Horgan said, pointing out that he can appreciate the worries as he was born and raised on Vancouver Island.

He emphasized that while non-essential travel is a concern, “it’s not just people from away who can contract the virus and then have it spread through communities.” Returning locals can also bring the virus to the Island. Horgan pointed to the recent COVID-19 outbreak in the Village of Alert Bay on Cormorant Island. On April 18, the small municipality declared a local state of emergency and implemented a curfew for residents.

Horgan said he’s been in contact with Alert Bay Mayor Dennis Buchanan – who’s been diagnosed with the virus – and with Chief Don Svanvik of the ‘Namgis First Nation. The premier pointed out that Buchanan must have come into contact with the virus on Cormorant Island as he hadn’t left but noted that there’s no way to know if those who brought it to the small island were travellers or locals returning from elsewhere.

READ ALSO: State of Emergency declared in village off Northern Vancouver Island due to COVID-19 outbreak

Horgan explained that the request for long weekend ferry travel restrictions will be considered but emphasized that the next long weekend is still a ways away.

“As we get closer to the May long weekend I’m hopeful that we will have a whole bunch of positive initiatives in communities that will put the ferry issue to one side,” he said. “I don’t want to be dismissive about it but it’s weeks from now and I’m living this day by day.”

Siebring is “not at all unhappy” with the premier’s response to the ferry travel concerns. He added that there’s time to monitor the issue and take action if it’s necessary before the long weekend.

“I’m just pleased that it’s on the radar and being taken seriously,” Siebring said, pointing out that it’s entirely possible the number of COVID-19 cases in B.C. will go down by May long weekend.


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BCFerriesCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

39 caught speeding through Cowichan school zones

On June 1, North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP conducted speed enforcement in several school zones

Lake Cowichan firefighters douse blaze at Mayo Road

Sahtlam called in for mutual aid in abandoned shop and motorhome

Caps send Luciano Wilson to Penticton Vees

Hometown hero led Cowichan in scoring last season

Considerations made to keep Crofton drive-by birthday celebrations going

Trucks will tone it down or not use horns at all to bring some joy to kids and older folks

$10,000 stolen bikes recovered after Maple Bay break-in

Police track high-end bikes to storage locker

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Friendly Cove and Kyuquot will remain closed until further notice

Transition of other B.C. communities will be monitored before a decision to ease restrictions

Gold River organizes a shop local initiative to creatively boost economy

Local purchases can earn shoppers $200 gift certificates to be spent on businesses within Gold River

Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo shore

DFO marine mammal rescue unit arrived as whale broke free from prawn trap line

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

Most Read