The B.C. Ferries vessel Coastal Inspiration. (Black Press Media file photo)

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

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo’s Mt. Benson with flares during icy rope rescue

Search and rescue team gets injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance

Sofia Low, left, Delilah Maisonneuve, Madi Hickey, Alayna Black, and Maya Wilch, Departure Bay Eco-School students, will turn down the temperature and wear sweaters on Feb. 4, National Sweater Day. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo students will don sweaters next week as part of energy-saving challenge

Departure Bay Eco-School’s green energy team challenges other classes on National Sweater Day

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo’s NRGH

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All seniors in long-term care on the Island will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
UPDATE: Snowfall warning issued for Nanaimo area, up to 5 cm forecast

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Sofia Low, left, Delilah Maisonneuve, Madi Hickey, Alayna Black, and Maya Wilch, Departure Bay Eco-School students, will turn down the temperature and wear sweaters on Feb. 4, National Sweater Day. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo students will don sweaters next week as part of energy-saving challenge

Departure Bay Eco-School’s green energy team challenges other classes on National Sweater Day

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

VIU’s health and science centre. (Vancouver Island University photo)
VIU to train 72 health-care assistants to work with seniors

B.C. Ministry of Health announces details of health career access program

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

Actions of Vancouver Island RCMP emergency response team members prevented a potential head-on collision accident on the Trans-Canada Highway on Jan. 19, says Nanaimo RCMP. (News Bulletin file)
Eight cars evade vehicle driving on wrong side of highway, says Nanaimo RCMP

Incident occurred near Trans-Canada Highway-Morden Road intersection earlier this week

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Most Read