Interprovincial travel could strain health systems in rural BC vacation spots
Osoyoos, boasting “Canada’s Warmest Welcome,” is often a popular getaway for vacationers at the first signs of spring, but politicians from the municipal to federal levels are telling residents to stay home this year.
On April 6 Mayor Sue McKortoff discouraged visitors who usually come to Osoyoos and visit family while taking in Easter celebrations due to the risk of spreading COVID-19, whether that means cancelling a visit to a summer condo or cottage, or cancelling visits with loved ones.
Often a proprietor of the annual Easter Egg Hunt, McKortoff said at Monday’s council meeting the event is now cancelled in Osoyoos.
“People always come up for Easter long weekend, visit their grandparents, visit family, and I certainly hope that this year we do not have those people coming to Osoyoos, or anywhere,” McKortoff said. “Going to cabins, going out camping, coming to visit their relatives. There isn’t anything open here or fun stuff for kids to do right now because we’re trying to keep everybody safe in their homes.”
“While we normally have quite an influx of people here for this weekend, I’m hoping people will be paying close attention to that.”
MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay, Richard Cannings said interprovincial travel and Canadians from elsewhere visiting their B.C. vacation homes are already putting a strain on the East Kootenays.
“This is happening here, but also it’s happening a lot in the East Kootenays where people are coming from places like Calgary to Invermere where they have their summer homes. It’s not that Calgary is a hotspot it’s just that suddenly there’s more people and Invermere can’t handle those kind of health implications if people start to come to the local hospitals and clinics,” Cannings said.
“I’ve heard all sorts of variations on this concern and it’s I think going to increase as the spring goes on,”
Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson released a video on her facebook page warning travellers not to vacation in Osoyoos and the South Okanagan this year.
“Even without COVID-19, our health services struggle, please stay home so that we will survive to welcome you back to our communities when this is over,” Larson said.
Larson said in a video conference with the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce last week that the interprovincial travel issue is starting to “raise its head.”
“I know people have their kids and they are trying to find a place to go with a little bit more open space, open air, but it is also, as Dr. (Bonnie) Henry has said, puts a huge strain on all the smaller communities that do not have the health systems large enough to handle people if they do get sick,” Larson said.
Discouraging travel is one thing, enforcement is another, she noted.
“We are a huge country and we do not have enough people to line up soldiers along borders to prevent people from moving in and out of our province. You rely on people being sensible, being caring about somebody other than themselves and that’s all we’ve got to go on,” Larson said. “There is no way, that I can see, that we can police that issue.”