Long-week­end trav­ellers fill up fer­ries, high­ways

Vancouver Sun - - CITY - GLENDA LUYMES with files by Tiffany Craw­ford gluymes@post­media.com

The road out­side Mag­gie O'shaugh­nessy's home on Galiano Is­land was busy Fri­day morn­ing as vis­i­tors ig­nored pleas by health of­fi­cials and is­land res­i­dents to stay home over the long week­end to pre­vent the spread of COVID-19.

“It's a small is­land. It's easy to tell who lives here and who doesn't,” the yoga in­struc­tor told Post­media. “I'm work­ing in my garden and I'm watch­ing these car­loads of peo­ple go by. They al­most look ashamed.”

On Twit­ter, NDP MLA Ni­cholas Si­mons had strong words for trav­ellers, say­ing that on Thurs­day “fer­ries to the Sunshine Coast were full of peo­ple who de­serve to live in a dic­ta­tor­ship.”

Other is­land res­i­dents re­ported the num­ber of cars ar­riv­ing by ferry and called on B.C. Fer­ries to help. In re­sponse, B.C. Fer­ries said it was not au­tho­rized to re­strict travel: “That di­rec­tive will need to come from the pro­vin­cial (gov­ern­ment)."

B.C. Fer­ries has dra­mat­i­cally re­duced sail­ings on all routes since the pan­demic be­gan, re­port­ing an 80 per cent drop in traf­fic. It has also re­duced the amount of pas­sen­gers on board by 50 per cent to en­able phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing.

But on Fri­day, about 30 min­utes be­fore sail­ing, the 11 a.m. ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay on Van­cou­ver Is­land was 94 per cent full, while the 5 p.m. sail­ing was 73 per cent full.

O'shaugh­nessy, a for­mer reg­is­tered nurse, was wor­ried a vis­i­tor may in­ad­ver­tently spread the virus to Galiano res­i­dents, many of whom are in their 70s.

“We have a fan­tas­tic clinic here, but it is not equipped for a sud­den in­crease in peo­ple,” she said. “Peo­ple need to take this se­ri­ously.”

In other pop­u­lar va­ca­tion towns across B.C., res­i­dents were re­port­ing heavy traf­fic, in­clud­ing campers and boats.

In Osoy­oos, for­mer B.C. Nurses' Union pres­i­dent Gayle Duteil tweeted Thurs­day evening that High­way 3 was “noth­ing but head­lights, campers and even tow­ing boats.” Pro­vi­sions, such as milk, eggs, meat and toi­let pa­per, were in short sup­ply.

Health of­fi­cials have been call­ing on peo­ple to stay home and forgo travel to sec­ond homes, favourite va­ca­tion spots and even parks out­side their re­gion to pre­vent the spread of the virus.

On Thurs­day, health of­fi­cials in B.C. and Al­berta is­sued a joint state­ment, urg­ing trav­ellers not to cross the border be­tween the two provinces, while the B.C. Min­istry of Pub­lic Safety said peo­ple should “stay safe by stay­ing home over the long week­end.”

“These are ex­tra­or­di­nary times. A global pan­demic puts us all at risk — and we all must stay home, stay in our com­mu­ni­ties and stay at a safe phys­i­cal dis­tance from oth­ers when out­side,” said B.C. Min­is­ter of Health Adrian Dix and Min­is­ter of Health for Al­berta Tyler Shan­dro.

Mean­while, B.C. Parks closed all pro­vin­cial parks be­fore the long week­end af­ter phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing mea­sures in the wilder­ness failed.

“We tried to pro­vide safe space for peo­ple to get some ex­er­cise and fresh air in our beau­ti­ful parks. But it has proven too chal­leng­ing to main­tain safe dis­tance be­tween vis­i­tors,” B.C. En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Ge­orge Hey­man said in a state­ment.

B.C. Parks has also ex­tended the ban on all camp­ing in pro­vin­cial parks un­til May 31.

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