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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

‘It'll be interesting to see what the Vancouver Island numbers do by the middle of next week -- the incubation period will be up then’, North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring

North Cowichan Mayor
Al Siebring

Just a short week and a half ago (April 14th) North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring, along nearly three dozen other elected officials on Vancouver Island and Coastal communities, issued a letter of concern BC’s Provincial Health Officer, Bonnie Henry – the letter was also copied to federal and provincial government officials including Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins.

In their letter, the community leaders expressed concerns that during the previous Easter long-weekend ...

... an influx of off-Islanders who've decided to ignore you, the Premier, and the appeals from each of us as community leaders to "stay close to home".  Instead, they decided to recreate on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and along the Sunshine Coast ... 

The letter went on to state while it was clear that while overall ferry traffic was considerably reduced from a “normal” Easter weekend ... there is still very compelling anecdotal evidence that the bulk of those who did use the ferry system were mainlanders who chose to “come to the Island” for their long weekend, blatantly ignoring directives to stay at home during this public health emergency ...

Quite rightly the mayors, and other elected officials, were concerned about having the health facilities, equipment, staff, and facilities to handle any outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic -- if their residents were infected by those unnecessarily traveling in to their communities.

So what was the bottom line for them, and to avoid health concerns due to weekend travellers looking to have a long weekend vacation?

... we are respectfully asking you to enact a Public Health Order prior to the upcoming May long weekend that would restrict long weekend usage (defined as Thursday through Tuesday) to "essential travel only" on the BC Ferry system.  That next long weekend is just over a month away, which provides ample time to do the analysis required to arrive at clear definitions around “essential travel”, along with an appropriate and robust mechanism for enforcement ... 

Yesterday I asked Mayor Siebring where things stood, and what response they had received to their request.  He indicated that there had not yet been a formal response, ‘which is fine’.

He told me that Premier John Horgan had indicated on Wednesday that they (the government) were monitoring the situation, and that they'd make a decision before the long weekend.

We weren't expecting a formal answer yet”, stated Siebring.

Still, I wondered, what about their concerns?

It's absolutely fair that they keep watching the numbers for now. Mr. Horgan also made the point that (BC) ferry traffic was down more than 90% for the long weekend.”

However, the North Cowichan Mayor then went on to say, “We get that. But even with that reduction, there were still close to 15-thousand people on the ferries.”

Again, referring to the letter the Island and coastal community leaders reminded BC’s Provincial Health Officer, Bonnie Henry, that ... because the demographics in our coastal communities generally skew quite heavily toward the older (and more vulnerable) end of the spectrum.  Therefore, this makes it all the more critical to control the spread of COVID-19 in our jurisdictions. 

 ... we have every reason to believe that if this behaviour (unnecessary travel on BC Ferries to their communities) is not effectively and pre-emptively curbed now, it will be repeated numerous times during the summer long weekends that lie ahead ...

In wrapping up with me, Mayor Siebring remarked, “It'll be interesting to see what the Vancouver Island numbers do by the middle of next week -- the 14-day incubation period will be up then.”

If there's a spike, I suspect the Province will look at that very seriously”, he concluded.

Little wonder then that the letter to Henry, as well as the provincial and federal elected officials, ended by stating:

It is truly regrettable that we are forced to request these more stringent measures because a tiny minority of people simply refuse to heed your directives and our collective pleas for self-isolation.

As to the concerns of the 30 plus leaders of Vancouver Island and Coastal communities, regarding a possible outbreak of COVID-19?  We’ll known in just a few short days.

Let’s hope that the tiny minority of people, who refused to do their part, don’t cause a burst of new cases their communities, due to their smaller size, are ill prepared to handle.


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