A pedestrian walks through the intersection at First Street in Tofino, on Nov. 16, 2020. (Melissa Renwick photo)
Fears of COVID-19 have made two communities on Vancouver Island’s west coast that normally market themselves as tourist destinations ask those from B.C.’s hardest hit regions to not visit.
On Friday Nov. 13 a joint message came from the District of Ucluelet, Tourism Ucluelet and the Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce for residents in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health regions to “avoid all non-essential travel to and from these regions until November 23rd.”
“Visitors that are scheduled to travel to Ucluelet from these health regions between now and November 23rd are asked to speak to their accommodation provider to reschedule their trip until it is safe to travel,” states the media release.
Then over the weekend the same message came from Tourism Tofino.
“If you are a resident of the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions, please note that non-essential travel out of these regions is not recommended until November 23rd at 12:00 pm,” states the press release from Tourism Tofino. “Please understand that the current COVID-19 situation remains fluid, with government regulations and health guidelines changing rapidly.”
The autumn has brought exponential growth in the number of active COVID-19 cases in British Columbia, rising from under 1,700 to over 6,000 from mid September to mid November. The most cases have been detected in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, leading Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry to declare that from Nov. 7 to 23 travel to and from these regions should be limited to essential purposes only. This means no trips for sports, social or tourism purposes.
In an effort to stop transmission, Dr. Henry also declared that residents in these regions are restricted from having social visits in their homes, although those who live alone can welcome the “safe six” people who are part of a limited social bubble. Wedding and funeral receptions are banned, while ceremonies are restricted to close family members. Group fitness sessions have also been halted for the two-week period, which includes yoga, spin and dance.
After a busy summer when most locals observed more visitors than usual, these recent messages from Ucluelet and Tofino follow the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation tightening measures back to its Phase One response to the novel coronavirus. On Nov. 5 the First Nation announced that only residents of Tla-o-qui-aht communities were allowed in, with an exception for essential service providers. Those who live in Ty-Histanis, Esowista and Opitsaht are asked not to travel beyond the Highway 4 junction unless it’s “essential to health and wellness”.
“Members who want to move home after a time away will have a mandatory 14-day quarantine when returning home,” reads a bulletin from the Tla-o-qui-aht Emergency Operations Centre.
A 9 p.m. curfew is in place for the Tla-o-qui-aht communities, with no social gatherings permitted.
“We encourage you to be extra protective and cautious when visiting elders or other vulnerable people,” states the bulletin. “Please limit visiting to between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.”
The last possible COVID-19 exposure announced by Island Health for the Tofino region occurred Oct. 27 at the Tofino Brewing Company between 5 and 7 p.m. Announced on Nov. 5, this incident was deemed to be “low risk”, but anyone at the Brewery during this time is advised to watch for symptoms.