VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Normally, Patricia wouldn’t dream of taking a ferry from Vancouver to the Sunshine Coast on the Thursday afternoon of a long weekend without a reservation.
But nothing is normal right now.
BC Ferries has reported an 80 per cent drop in traffic and cut sailings on all routes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patricia, who doesn’t want her last name used, lives in Roberts Creek. She came to Vancouver Thursday morning for an MRI appointment.
“When I went over this morning there was no traffic and there has been no traffic,” she tells NEWS 1130.
She arrived at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal 30 minutes early for her 4:20 p.m. departure and was shocked to find herself in a lineup she says can’t be explained by essential travel.
“People with ATVs, kayaks, campers, pillows, and duvets in their back windows, coolers–a lot of young people. So that tells me that is not local traffic.”
She says there’s a substantial population of seniors in the coastal communities, and only one hospital in Sechelt.
“People are absolutely incensed that people are not following the guidelines that have been clearly laid out for days if not weeks, telling people not to come. People are nervous about the influx of people,” she explains.
“The bottom line is people are being asked not to do this. The longer people don’t obey the provincial rules, the longer we’re going to be in lockdown, and the more people are going to get sick and die.”
According to the BC Ferries website, every scheduled sailing between Horseshoe Bay and the Sunshine Coast was full Thursday, with two Friday sailings already sold out.
Lori Pratt, chair of the Sunshine Coast Regional District posted a video online asking people not to visit.
“If you have family and friends that want to visit from other jurisdictions, tell them to stay where they are,” she said.
“If the Sunshine Coast is not your primary residence please consider staying home. Or pick one home and stay there. Do not travel back and forth as it creates a risk of transmission of COVID-19 to everyone.”
The District of Sechelt took to Twitter to plead with people to heed the public health officials pleas not to leave town on the long weekend.
Dear Metro Vancouver citizens, we like you. We really like you. And we’d love to see you later when this health crisis is over. We know it’s a drag but it’s important. Please stay home. Love and kisses, Sechelt #sechelt #COVIDBC #sunshinecoastbc
— District of Sechelt (@SecheltBC) April 10, 2020
BC Ferrries reported full or nearly full sailings on many routes Thursday afternoon and evening, and repeated its warning to avoid non-essential travel.
Stay at home this weekend.
— BC Ferries (@BCFerries) April 10, 2020
Faced with online complaints, BC Ferries said it does not have the power to restrict non-residents from travelling.
“While we have advised customers to avoid non-essential travel at this time, we are unable to constrain traffic. The directive to restrict travel must come from the Provincial government,” it said.