Health officials are urging British Columbians not to travel as the province heads into the first long weekend of the spring.
It comes at the end of a record-breaking week for the COVID-19 pandemic in the province, with daily cases topping 1,000 for the first time Wednesday, pushing B.C. over 100,000 total cases.
“This is not the time for any of us to be travelling for leisure or vacation or getaways outside of our community. Travel is still very high risk for all of us,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at her Thursday briefing.
“If you are in doubt at all this weekend, just don’t go. A good guideline is to think about staying within the area where you would go for a day trip. If it requires an overnight stay, a vacation rental, then it is not a good idea right now.”
BC Ferries added extra sailings over the long weekend, though would not say how many. It said overall, traffic was down 50 per cent for passengers and 30 per cent for vehicles on major routes.
Ferries, which are classified as an essential service, are operating at half capacity in order to permit physical distancing.
“The amount of extra sailings is very small. Normally they would put on dozens of extra sailings for what is one of the busiest long weekends of the year,” Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said.
“It’s essential travel for people that have reasons for business, personal reasons, appointments, those kinds of things to get on and off the island.”
That message was clearly not resonating with everyone. Traffic at Metro Vancouver’s two ferry terminals was steady Thursday, and reservations were filling up fast.
Passengers Global News spoke with at Victoria’s Swartz Bay terminal described trips to the Gulf Islands, to the mainland to visit family and short tourist visits to the capital.
At the province’s ski destinations, some operators say they’re seeing increased demand — particularly in the wake of a provincial order shuttering the Whistler-Blackcomb resort.
Michael J Ballingall, senior vice-president at Kelowna’s Big White, said the resort has been seeing “unprecedented demand” from the Lower Mainland, prompting it to move to scrap the season early on Monday afternoon.
“We would be the only resort west of Revelstoke open in B.C. that week, and we know that Big White is a magnet for people that want to spring ski and snowboard,” he said.
We just decided that this is not the right time to travel, this is not the right time for Airbnb’s and couch surfing and people visiting friends … and we know that if we turn off the lifts, we will be able to stop people from travelling to our resort and other parts of B.C. when it is not safe to do so.”
People who do stay close to home over the long weekend are still being reminded that if they plan to visit with anyone beyond their immediate household they should do so outdoors, and urged not to mix socially with multiple different groups.