Mount Geoffrey Provincial Park on Hornby Island. Photo courtesy Mountain Bike BC

Visitors asked to stay away from Gulf Islands during COVID-19 pandemic

Islands Trust makes public plea for people to avoid non-essential visits

Gulf Islands residents want to self-isolate themselves from pretty much everybody else during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Islands Trust announced Sunday that trustees are “going public with a plea for people to stay away” from the Gulf Islands as a coronavirus precaution.

A press release from Islands Trust suggested that the move will “reduce pressure on limited island services.” Trustees are also asking residents of the Gulf Islands to stay home and practise social distancing.

“Now is not the time to be visiting the islands,” said Peter Luckham, chairman of the Islands Trust council, in a press release. “Most Gulf Islands have a median age of over 60 years old and limited or no medical services. First responders are volunteers who are practising sheltering in place in order to be available for normal emergencies. We urge everyone to stay home and avoid discretionary travel to and from the islands. As ferry-dependent communities, we are especially vulnerable and face additional challenges. Now is not the time to take a holiday or visit your vacation property.”

The release noted as well that many Gulf Island businesses, including restaurants, are “understocked, understaffed, and closing down or significantly limiting their services.”

Luckham said the islands “look forward to welcoming visitors again when it is safe to do so.”

Associations and governmental officials on Hornby and Denman Islands made a similar request.

Hornby Island, a popular tourism destination, is bracing for the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a media release, most restaurants, resorts, and businesses have chosen to close to safeguard local at-risk residents. However, with the nearest hospital two ferry rides away, an outbreak of COVID-19 would pose a particular challenge for Hornby residents. The situation on neighboring Denman Island is similar.

“We have a particularly vulnerable population here, with almost 50 per cent of our population over 55, compared to 25 per cent in B.C.,” Denman Island trustee Laura Busheikin said. “Please stay home.”

Over the past few days, Quadra Island made similar requests, asking non-residents to avoid non-essential visits. Last week the municipalities of Tofino and Ucluelet asked visitors to postpone travel to the west coast of Vancouver Island.

READ ALSO: B.C. Ferries confirms worker has COVID-19

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