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COVID-19: Some residents of small B.C. towns threaten to blockade ferry terminal

Some residents of small communities threaten drastic action to prevent visitors
Despite evidence that most people are staying home during the COVID-19 crisis, some residents of smaller communities are threatening drastic action to keep people from visiting their communities. Brad MacLeod reports.

Despite evidence that most British Columbians stayed close to home on the Easter long weekend, some residents of B.C.’s small towns and resort communities say they’re still seeing too many visitors and are threatening to take matters into their own hands.

At least one small business owner on the Sunshine Coast says he will block those getting off at the Langdale ferry terminal on the May long weekend if the government doesn’t do more to stop unwanted visitors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ MORE: Vancouver Island MP joins growing call for ban on non-essential BC Ferries travel

“Our message is, ‘We are sorry. But the coast is closed,'” said Andrew Bonnici, who is printing up signs and planning to post them along busier roads.

“Thursday the 21st and Friday the 22nd — all the sailings except the first sailing of the day will be blocked to vehicle traffic.”

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The Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island have some of the largest senior populations in the country.

Said Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers: “We are concerned about a lot of other people coming here and the impact on the curve (that) we have been very diligent to keep flat.”

Renewed call for new restrictions to limit ferry traffic to Vancouver Island during coronavirus outbreak
Renewed call for new restrictions to limit ferry traffic to Vancouver Island during coronavirus outbreak

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said there is no benefit to block people from coming into an area because it won’t necessarily prevent the transmission of the coronavirus, but despite her calm demeanor, she can┬ácome across as dismissive to those living in tourist hotspots.

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring has sent a letter, supported by 24 other Vancouver Island mayors, asking Henry to enforce the essential-travel-only rule beyond the honour system at BC Ferries.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Henry calls reports of full BC Ferries ‘overblown,’ says traffic is down

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“Yes, ferry traffic was down, but it was up from what was there before the long weekend,” Siebring said.

Premier John Horgan prefers to keep enforcement to a minimum, and says most people are listening.

“For that small group of people that are not, I think public scorn is as effective a tool as a fine or a ticket. or some sort of prosecution or government,” he said.

B.C. government to step-up enforcement of self-isolation rules for returning travellers
B.C. government to step-up enforcement of self-isolation rules for returning travellers

It’s decidedly not enough action to stop plans to blockade the Langdale ferry in May.

The mayor of Sechelt hopes it doesn’t get to that point.

“There is a small group of people that may take things into their own hands,” Siegers said. “I think its speaks to the fear in the community.”

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