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‘Please stay away’: B.C. tourist towns urge outsiders to stay home under COVID-19

B.C. tourist towns telling people to stay away
WATCH: B.C. tourist towns tell people to stay away

The leaders of some of B.C.’s tourist hot spots have an unusual message, as the province and beyond grapples with the novel coronavirus: “Please stay away.”

It comes as federal and provincial leaders, along with public health officials, advise people to stay home as much as possible to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Please stay home in your home community at this time,” Gibsons Mayor Bill Beamish told Global News by Skype. “Because even though you have those cottages and properties here, we do not have the services that can support an influx of people.”

READ MORE: Locals worried as people still head to Rocky Mountains despite COVID-19 pandemic

The message is resonating for the most part, Beamish said, with streets in his Sunshine Coast community largely empty and ferry traffic significantly down.

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But he said he worries that city dwellers who are feeling stressed or anxious under the pandemic could flood in, intending to take a break.

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Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne has the same concern.

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“The hospital resources and the health-care resources here are very limited, and we really want to focus our attention on the most vulnerable people in the region, and that means — if possible — not having to spend resources on people who don’t truly call this their home,” she said.

Tofino’s hospital has 10 acute care beds.

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Doctors have emphasized that they must focus on COVID-19 and their community’s regular health issues, she added, and don’t need the extra pressure of patching up injured surfers or hikers.

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People who own recreational property in Tofino aren’t barred from going there, but Osborne said if they do, they’re being asked to stay put once arrived and observe all public health measures including physical distancing and handwashing.

“If you have a second home, or maybe you’re a visitor contemplating coming out and you have the time and you’ve got the disposable income to be coming out at this time, it’s not a message that I think sends a ton of support to our community,” she said.

“We will welcome everyone back with open arms as soon as we are told it’s safe to do so.”