Petition, politicians call for increased travel restrictions to Vancouver Island

Petition, politicians call for increased travel restrictions to Vancouver Island
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An online petition calling for restricted access to Vancouver Island is gaining steam online, as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The petition, which started three weeks ago, calls on BC Ferries to limit access to Vancouver Island to residents, essential services and those providing supplies. It argues that the Island has a high number of people who are considered “high risk” and that there are too many tourists coming over.

As of Sunday afternoon, it had more than 28,000 signatures.

“People should be taking this situation very seriously by self-isolating and social distancing but it’s not happening, and we still have tourists and non-residents travelling over to the Island. BC Ferries should be limited to essential services and implement restricted access for residents who are trying to return home to their families,” the petition says.

BC Ferries is operating at 50 per cent reduced capacity, as per federal requirements amid the coronavirus pandemic, and have said that traffic for the long weekend is down 90 per cent compared to last year’s Easter long weekend.

On Saturday, Dr. Bonnie Henry, province’s health officer, said there is only a fraction of the normal holiday weekend traffic on the ferries, despite repeated reports in the media, and doesn’t see a need for increased enforcement.

Pointing out that the number of vehicles coming over for the long weekend is less than normal doesn’t change the fact that some ferries were still full, according to Municipality of North Cowichan mayor, Al Siebring.

“The reality is that the bulk of the traffic was there, some of the ferries were full to their new standards,” he said. “The bulk that traffic was recreational traffic, people that wanted to come over here and getaway for the weekend and you’re going to see full ferries again tomorrow as these people head back to Mainland. That’s a concern.”

Siebring told CHEK News he has drafted a letter that he’s planning on sending to the “authorities” calling for increased travel restrictions and more enforcement of non-essential travel on BC Ferries prior to the Victoria Day long weekend. He said he’s reached out to other mayors and regional districts around the Island for support.

“So far, I got about 20 of them signed on already in support of this initiative,” he said. “I suspect there will be more tomorrow once the bulk of them turn their computers on.”

Meanwhile, Paul Manly, Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP, posted a letter on his website calling on the provincial and federal governments to respond to the situation immediately.

“BC Ferries is following the rules set out by the federal government. They do not have the authority to stop people from getting on the ferries unless they report symptoms for COVID-19,” Manly said in a letter posted on his website on April 10.

Speaking to CHEK News, Manly said that there are lots of people making sacrifices right now and that it is upsetting for them to see others ignoring provincial health orders. He also said increased ferry traffic to the Island is something he’s very concerned about.

“It is worrying because we do have a large seniors population on Vancouver Island and we’ve had First Nations on the Island that have asked people to stay away from their communities because they are susceptible to this and they don’t want their elders to get COVID-19,” Manly said.

Manly believes the province needs to order BC Ferries to restrict all non-essential travel on all routes immediately.

“People shouldn’t be travelling for non-essential reasons and so I think that it should be enforced on the ferries and people need to be asked why they need to get on a ferry right now,” he said.

Click here to view the petition.


Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod

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