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

Parksville athlete sprints her way to the University of B.C.

Desvaux looks forward to joining T-Birds track and field team

COVID-19: Tourism Vancouver Island aims to help businesses survive

Revenue loss associated with a slow summer will be a big hit

COVID-19: Uptick in calls to Haven Society crisis line as restrictions ease

Organization reminds people of their range of services

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

COVID-19: Parksville-Qualicum MLA Stilwell calls for more help for tourism industry

‘It’s no question been one of the hardest-hit sectors in this pandemic’

Man dies in ATV accident south of Nanaimo

Incident happened on backroad Friday night in Nanaimo Lakes area

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

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

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Most Read