Henry reinforces message on non-essential travel

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has called, once again, on British Columbians not to travel unless it’s absolutely necessary, a message local officials on the Sunshine Coast have also been emphasizing in recent days.

At her March 31 briefing, Henry said B.C. is entering a “critical time” over the next two weeks.

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Henry said there had been 43 new cases since Monday, bringing the total to 1,013, but with 507 now considered recovered.

Henry also reported five new deaths, for a total of 24, and said 19 long-term care homes have now seen cases.

In reinforcing the various messages around physical distancing and preventing the spread of COVID-19, Henry also warned against travelling unless it’s essential.

“Avoid unnecessary travel, particularly to small communities, where they may not be able to support you if you do get sick and where they don’t have as many resources,” Henry said.

“That is our duty to make sure that we’re not connecting and transmitting this virus between us and bringing it home to those that we care about in our family and in our community.”

Sunshine Coast Tourism has already been putting out the message that they “do not encourage travellers and visitors to come to the Sunshine Coast at this time.”

BC Ferries is also advising people to avoid any non-essential travel.

And the Sunshine Coast Emergency Operations Centre said earlier this week, “If the Sunshine Coast is not your primary residence: please consider staying at your

primary residence unless you feel that you can help support and enhance essential services, and/or help protect the health and well-being of the community.”

Gibsons Mayor Bill Beamish also raised the issue in his March 31 update to the community.

“One issue that continues to be of concern is the number of reports or complaints received about people who are arriving on the Sunshine Coast from other communities or regions of the province,” Beamish wrote.

“In my previous message, and also in an email to the Minister of Health, I made it very clear that, except for health-care workers, police and first responders who are travelling here to provide support or relief to our local population, we discourage others from coming.”

Beamish said he also feels that should apply even in the case of people who own property on the Coast and “want to escape the pressures of their primary communities.”

“We do not have the resources to support them if they become COVID-19 positive and the best place for them to receive care is at home, in their own communities.”

Beamish notes that local governments do not have the authority to ban regional travel, but given that many communities have made it clear visitors are not welcome “at this very precarious time,” he hopes to see the province issue an enforceable order banning non-essential travel.

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