VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — B.C.’s restrictions on non-essential travel have cut Lower Mainlanders off from Vancouver Island and the Okanagan, and mayors of popular tourist spots within the Vancouver Coastal region are worried they might see an influx of visitors.
The new restrictions combine B.C.’s five health authorities into three regions of the province, with travel between these regions prohibited. The Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions have been combined into one zone.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Friday the new order targets recreational and leisure travel. BC Ferries will be denying boarding on the six routes that cross these boundaries, but not on sailings to Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast.
As these new travel restrictions come into effect, the province has released a list of what's considered essential: pic.twitter.com/zPIiRSJnXe
— Amanda Wawryk (@AmandaWawryk) April 23, 2021
The mayor of Bowen Island says he is disappointed to see that there’s nothing in place to prevent would-be vacationers from across the Lower Mainland from hopping a ferry and coming into his community.
“What they’ve done is increased our catchment area by 1.8 million people. So we’re basically vulnerable to 50 per cent of the population of B.C. at this point in time and that’s certainly doesn’t serve us well,” Gary Ander says.
“All we can say is please don’t come at this point in time.”
Ander says he understands why the two health regions have been combined, with many people commuting between them daily for a number of essential reasons.
But he does worry public health officials repeated pleas wih people to stay as local as possible won’t stop people from coming.
“All we can do is plead because we are not equipped to handle a large influx of tourists at this time, and it is not healthy for our island to have a big influx of tourists, unfortunately,” he says.
“There’s no restrictions at all on people coming over here. So, it doesn’t really help us. We can just hope that the weather stays kind of crappy and people choose not to come over to Bowen Island for the next little while.”
Sea to Sky communities reminding BCers they don't want any visitors now.
"Until May 25, the communities of Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) will only welcome essential travel through the region"#bcpoli #covid19 @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/UnxWofq1g8
— LizaYuzda (@LizaYuzda) April 23, 2021
Mayors in the Sea to Sky region have also issued a statement saying they will “only welcome essential travel.” They are urging people not to make day trips to Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, noting the Howe Sound saw a recent surge of COVID-19 infections.
“We urge Lower Mainland and North Shore residents to not travel to the Sea to Sky region for recreation as we work our way back from being a COVID-19 hot spot, and to prevent transmission between our communities,” writes District of Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott.
“Everyone should stay close to home,” added Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton. “The Sea to Sky region is united asking that people not visit until after the May long weekend.”
Pemberton’s mayor also asked people to stay away, saying he’s hopeful sacrifices now will pay off later
“We know people enjoy Pemberton’s mountain biking trails, hiking trails and recreation areas and we hope this summer season will be an active, healthy and profitable one for all but that is only possible if people adhere to these new restrictions,” says Mike Richman.