‘We are very eager’: Officials, operators hope for safe border reopening before end of summer

'We are very eager': Officials, operators hope for safe border reopening before end of summer
WatchTourism operators that rely on travel between Victoria and Washington State are hoping to hear soon when they can get back up and running. April Lawrence reports.

The pandemic has emptied the docks at the Victoria Clipper and MV Coho ferry lines in Victoria’s Inner Harbour since the border was closed last year and operators say they still don’t know when they’ll be back.

“Is it the end of August? Is it September? We’re not too sure,” said Black Ball Ferry Line President Ryan Burles.  “What we’re asking like all the tourism operators is just a solid plan, that obviously can change, but just some sense so we can prepare, you know?”

Non-essential travel restrictions between Canada and the United States are currently in place until July 21 but the federal government has said at least 75 per cent of Canadians need to be fully vaccinated to reopen to tourism.

The mayor of Port Angeles says the closure has hit her community hard.

“The revenue that comes into our county because of the Coho is millions of dollars of year,” said Mayor Kate Dexter.  “It just is a really valuable relationship for us so we’re really looking forward to welcome people back,” she said.

But Washington State is still in a bit of a different place in its pandemic than B.C. is.

While B.C. has surpassed 78 per cent of the eligible population for first doses, Washington State is only just above 63 per cent, although its second dose rate is higher. Dexter says the state has enough supply for everyone right now to have two doses but some are hesitant.

“At this point it is people who, for a variety of reasons, are choosing not to or may have medical situations that mean that they can’t,” she said.

And while its curve is dropping, Washington still has an average of 332 cases per day, much higher than B.C., even accounting for population.

READ MORE: B.C. adds 59 new COVID-19 cases, three in Island Health

Across the U.S. the concerning Delta variant is now the dominant strain, making up 51.7 per cent of positive cases, while in B.C., Delta accounts for about 14 per cent of positive cases.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said more steps toward a gradual border reopening will be announced in the weeks ahead.

Burles say once they get the word they could be up and running in two to four weeks but doubt it will happen before fall.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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