'It's frustrating': Vancouver Island busy on Easter weekend despite COVID-19 orders

Despite messaging from the province to avoid non-essential travel, the Swartz Bay and Departure Bay ferry terminals were bustling Monday with folks leaving the island, including tourists.

There were lots of vacationers in Tofino this weekend, according to Charles McDiarmid, manager of the iconic Wickaninnish Inn.

“It’s frustrating,” he says of the number of non-locals who descended on the community over the weekend. “Tofino was busy. A lot of people coming from outside the area, from Vancouver and across B.C.”

McDiarmid thinks the province should bring in tougher measures than merely recommending people not travel unless it’s essential. He says he’d support an order banning non-essential travel for the short term.

It’s not just reckless travellers coming under fire, though.

The province is being criticized for murky messaging, and a failure to provide enough data to persuade folks to follow the guidelines.

Dr. Brian Conway is with the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre. He thinks public health authorities need to provide more fulsome data in support of their decisionmaking.

“People are confused,” says Conway. “They don’t know what they're allowed to do or not… The public health authorities really need to spend this week telling us exactly what’s happening, how the virus is spreading.”

 On Monday, the province’s health minister weighed in on the issue again.

 “I can't be more clear on this: if you don’t need to travel, don't travel right now,” said Adrian Dix.

Dix said an order or ban on travel that isn’t essential wasn't practical and wasn’t in the works. Nor was the idea of shutting down ferry trips to and from Vancouver Island.

“We need to have ferries go to Vancouver Island,” he said. “There is a lot of essential travel – a lot of goods travel – that is required.”

So despite over 4,000 new cases in B.C. in the past four days, staying close to home is going to remain an ask – not an order.