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Police, fire rescue in Osoyoos, B.C., asking public to avoid non-essential boating

Police, fire rescue in Osoyoos, B.C., asking public to avoid non-essential boating

Police in the South Okanagan are asking people to avoid not only non-essential travel amid the coronavirus pandemic, but non-essential boating as well.

The request comes after Osoyoos RCMP and Osoyoos Fire Rescue say they’ve received questions recently regarding boating on Osoyoos Lake following a spike in warm weather.

A cross-border lake that’s approximately 19 kilometres long, Osoyoos Lake is dubbed Canada’s warmest fresh-water lake and is a popular tourist attraction.

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This week, Osoyoos RCMP issued a press release that asked: “Osoyoos Lake is most certainly beautiful and a place many flock to for water sports, but with COVID-19, is now the time for pleasure boating? If so, can boaters use the lake for non-essential travel to the U.S.A.?”

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Osoyoos RCMP Sgt. Jason Bayda said he and Osoyoos Fire Rescue Chief Dave McMahon have fielded those questions recently.

“With boating season upon us, many are looking for alternative outdoor activities while still social distancing,” said Bayda.

“When it comes to non-essential travel, whether it be by car or boat, Osoyoos RCMP and Osoyoos Fire Rescue have a simple message: We all must do our part to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Follow all public health advisories and guidelines.”

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A reminder from BC Ferries to avoid all non-essential travel

Added McMahon: “We know the increase of pleasure boating comes with the increased chances of emergencies on the water. So while it may be permitted, we ask that you consider the risks you are putting our first responders in.

“Avoid non-essential boating, stay close to home to save lives.”

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Police say if you have COVID-19 and need to be rescued, you could potentially pass the virus on to first responders, which could prevent them from responding to other emergencies.

“There is a temporary restriction on all non-essential travel, including tourism and recreation, at the Canada-United States border, including via international waters,” Bayda.

“This means pleasure boaters are currently not permitted to cross the international border on Osoyoos Lake.”

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In addition, B.C.’s Joint Information Centre offered the following on boating restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

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  • People are still advised to avoid all non-essential travel at this time, especially to rural and remote areas.
  • The best course of action for British Columbians now is to stay close to come until further into summer, as we enter Phase 3 of B.C.’s Restart Plan.
  • Boaters should be aware that some small coastal First Nations communities have closed their villages to visitors to protect themselves from COVID-19.
  • Boaters planning a trip may not have access to fuel, supplies and other services, and should plan accordingly.
  • In addition, the Canadian Coast Guard is asking recreational mariners to avoid non-essential trips on the water and stay close to home.
  • Each call that search and rescue crews respond to puts them at risk of exposure to COVID-19 and requires them to use precious supplies of PPE.
  • Almost all provincial parks will be open for day use on May 14, including boat launches. Most provincial campgrounds will be open June 1.
  • Parks that remain temporarily closed will be listed on the BC Parks website www.bcparks.ca.
  • Boaters will not be permitted to access bodies of water or boat launches in parks that remain closed.
  • If boaters must travel on their vessel, they are asked to stay safe, wear a personal floatation device, leave a trip plan with someone on shore, and have all mandatory safety equipment working and on board the vessel.
  • Boaters are also reminded that the provincial health officer’s guidance on physical distancing counts on boats too.

Furthermore, Osoyoos RCMP say they are not telling people they can’t boat, as they recognize that getting outside is a good thing.

However, add that if you decide to head out on local waters, to bring safety equipment, including a paddle.

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Police told Global News that if your boat breaks down, you’ll be paddling to shore as first responders will not be risking their health by towing boaters to shore.

“For that reason, if they insist on going out on the water,” said police, “we ask that they take every precaution to minimize the risks of an emergency.”