Like many of you, I am deeply troubled by the reports of large numbers of travelers making their way to Vancouver Island this weekend via BC Ferries. I have voiced my concerns to the Prime Minister, the Premier, as well as federal and provincial ministers whose areas of responsibility are directly relevant to this issue. Here is what I wrote:
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Horgan
As BC Ferries fill up with travelers heading to Vancouver Island this long weekend it is clear that too many people are ignoring the directive from both levels of government to stay at home. There can be no justification for a rise in ferry ridership during a long weekend in a public health emergency. This can no longer just be a request for people to stay home. The government needs to restrict travel and enforce that restriction.
BC Ferries is following the rules set out by the federal government. They do not have the authority to stop people from getting on the ferries unless they report symptoms for COVID-19.
We need the federal and provincial governments to respond to this situation immediately. Of the 1,370 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. on April 9th, only 82 were in the Island Health region. 508 were in the Fraser Health region and 626 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. Vancouver Island has one of the oldest and most vulnerable populations in Canada. Vancouver Islanders have done a great job of following the instructions of our health authorities and are flattening the curve. Gulf Island elected representatives and community leaders have asked non-islanders to stay away. The small communities on the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island do not have the health care resources to deal with an outbreak of COVID-19.
We need our communities to be protected. The Nanaimo Regional General Hospital in my riding serves the oldest demographic per capita in Canada, and health care workers lack the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to deal with an outbreak.
Please order BC ferries to restrict all non-essential travel on all routes effective immediately.
Thank you for your time and attention to this urgent matter.