Spring is here and a brilliant sun is shining on the west coast of Vancouver Island, but communities from the popular tourist destination are telling visitors not to come over the Easter long weekend.
This message was delivered Thursday in a joint statement from municipalities and First Nations in the Clayoquot Sound region in an effort to prevent further spread of the new coronavirus. COVID-19 has so far amassed 1,370 cases in B.C., including 34 new infections confirmed by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonny Henry on April 9. Of the province’s cases, 462 are considered active, as 858 with confirmed infection have fully recovered.
The joint statement, which also applies to home owners who have a second property in the region, was issued by the districts of Tofino, Ucluelet and the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District, as well as the Hesquiaht, Ahousaht, Tla-o-qui-aht and Toquaht First Nations and the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government.
“In keeping with recommendations from every level of government and every public health official, now is not the time to travel for tourism or recreation purposes,” reads the statement. “Now is not the time to visit your second home or permit your friends to use your empty vacation rental. Now is not the time for a surfing, fishing or camping trip.”
Outdoor options became more limited this week when all B.C. parks were closed on Wednesday, April 8. It’s a provincial measure to urge residents to avoid all non-essential travel and any situations that might put them in close contact with others outside their immediate family. As the spread of the highly infectious respiratory disease remains a threat, it’s best to stay at home, said George Heyman, minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. A press release from his ministry stated that while many are following the physical distancing requirements set out by B.C.’s provincial health officer, some are ignoring this order, making enforcement in the wilderness “challenging”.
"I understand and share the love people in British Columbia have for the outdoors and the connection between health and proximity to nature,” stated Heyman. “We tried to provide safe space for people to get some exercise and fresh air in our beautiful parks. But it has proven too challenging to maintain safe distance between visitors. This action is difficult but necessary. We look forward to the day we can welcome people back to our wonderful parks."
The notice from Vancouver Island’s west coast communities noted that bars, pubs and spas are closed – and the few restaurants that are operating are serving take-out food for local residents, essential workers and health care staff.
“We look forward to welcoming you later when it is safe for you, and safe for us - but that’s not this weekend,” said the statement.