‘Let’s wait a while’: Visitors urged to avoid long weekend travel to Van. Island, Gulf Islands

'Let's wait a while': Visitors urged to avoid long weekend travel to Van. Island, Gulf Islands
WatchPeople are being urged to avoid 'non-essential' travel on BC Ferries for the Victoria Day long weekend but will they listen? April Lawrence reports.

On the Thursday before the Victoria Day long weekend, the Swartz Bay ferry terminal in North Saanich was quiet. Of the handful of people in the vehicle lineup for Tsawwassen, most seemed to be following guidelines and were travelling for essential reasons only

“Unfortunately my dad last week fell and broke his wrist so he needs some help at home,” said Pat Dunkley who was on his way to Vernon.

“Just returning home after getting some facial surgery done,” said Paul Clark, a Prince George resident.

While reservations for Friday are fully booked, BC Ferries is still only allowing 50 per cent of its usual passenger load, and is only running two vessels on the major routes instead of the usual four.

“The intervals between the sailings can be long. They can be up to four hours, so if you missing a sailing it can be up to a four-hour wait,” said BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall.

On the Easter long weekend, there were concerns shared on social media that lineups of people were travelling for recreation, towing RVs, ATV’s and boats. As a result, more than 20 Vancouver Island mayors wrote a letter to the provincial government urging them to put restrictions in place for this long weekend. But that hasn’t happened.

READ MORE: B.C.’s top doctor calls reports of unessential ferry travel ‘overblown’

Tofino’s mayor says with talk of easing some restrictions in the province, there may be a few more people coming to visit her community this time around. While she’s unsure if there will be road checks like there were in April, she’s still encouraging people to stay away.

“So we’re asking our visitors who we knew they really want to come back, be patient with us, we need to put our systems in place and work with our community so they feel comfortable,” said Mayor Josie Osborne.

It’s the same message for the Gulf Islands, which has limited medical resources should someone get sick and need health care.

“Let’s wait a while and delay your travel if you can,” said Capital Regional District Director for Salt Spring Island Gary Holman. “We love you, but come later,” he said.

And it seems, despite the desperate urge to get out and see the world again, people are listening.

“Just because things are opening up it doesn’t mean it’s okay yet, we need to be careful,” said ferry passenger Lauren Van Acken.

Normally hundreds of thousands of people will travel on BC Ferries over the Victoria Day long weekend. Just how many travel this particular long weekend during the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be known until Monday.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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