“If you love Salt Spring, please refrain from visiting our island now.”
With a sunny long holiday weekend looming, that was the message from Salt Spring Island’s Business and Farm Response & Recovery Task Force, who launched the “Stay Home Stay Safe” campaign last week.
The COVID-19 crisis means that Salt Spring essential services providers are concerned about the potential disruption in the supply of essentials to the community, with all goods arriving by limited ferry service.
“In normal times, visitors are really important to our local economy and culture,” said Jessica Harkema, executive director of Salt Spring’s Chamber of Commerce. “These are not normal times. Our priority now is serving our community. Island organizations are working hard to make sure our residents have the food and critical resources to be safe. For now, everyone please stay home.”
Even with the same message coming from smaller coastal and rural communities all over B.C., many people reported seeing extra busy ferries leading into the long weekend.
BC Ferries reassured communities Saturday morning that traffic has actually seen a “huge reduction” compared to regular long weekends.
“The new temporary Transport Canada regulations say we can carry 50 per cent of the normal maximum passenger license limits. We are following in accordance with these new regulations,” said BC Ferries communications director Deborah Marshall.
She added the busiest ferry between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay on Friday had 408 passengers, or 39 per cent its new reduced capacity.
Salt Spring’s Lady Minto Hospital has likewise told the public that it is imperative that island residents tell friends and family not to visit and to please celebrate the Easter long weekend with off-island loved ones virtually. The small island hospital is not equipped to deal with an influx of patients.
As the task force observes, there have been significant changes to regular transportation options and other services that would make travel difficult and not very enjoyable in any case.
Floatplanes have temporarily cancelled regularly scheduled flights, while ferry service has been reduced and passengers are being asked to travel for essential reasons only. BC Ferries has also begun screening passengers for COVID-19 on all sailings of more than 30 minutes. Provincial parks were closed today and virtually all island events have been postponed indefinitely.
The Business and Farm Response & Recovery Task Force was established to support the Salt Spring community during COVID-19. Its goal is to ensure island-wide coordination and address the significant current and anticipated impacts to Salt Spring Island as a result of the pandemic.
The task force is also rolling out a social media campaign today asking islanders to change their Facebook profile photo to the Stay Home logo.
Sadly I just watched a ferry unload at Vesuvius at 4 on Thursday. Car load after car load of people arriving to the island. So risky! I won’t be going to town for groceries, gas, booze or anything for at least another week.
Whoever is providing accommodation to these people should be named and shamed!