May long weekend is fast approaching with British Columbians looking forward to the province entering Phase Two in its multi-step re-opening plan amid COVID-19. But the government is putting its foot down on recreational boating trips and escaping to vacation homes.
“Now is not the time to travel for tourism or recreation,” the province said in a statement Thursday (May 14).
Health officials are urging British Columbians to only use BC Ferries if for essential travel and only explore the outdoors within one’s own community.
Those hoping to visit their vacation home or cottage are also being asked to change their plans.
“Access to resources and health care may be more challenging in smaller communities if someone should become ill or if there’s a community outbreak,” the province said, adding that health resources are already strained in rural areas.
As of Thursday, most provincial parks are open to day-use only, offering access to beaches, trails, most picnic areas, washroom facilities and boat launches. However, overnight camping remains closed until June 1.
Officials are urging boaters to also “stay close to home” and avoid non-essential travel to other regions – particularly small First Nations communities along the coast which remain closed to visitors to protect themselves from the spread of COVID-19. Boaters may not have access to fuel, supplies and other services while on the water.
Meanwhile, outdoor enthusiasts are being asked to be prepared before venturing into the wilderness, in order to keep search and rescue volunteers safe, as well as the use of personal protection equipment down.
In the first week of May, BC Search and Rescue Association recorded a 35-per-cent spike in calls compared to the same time last year.
The weekend doesn’t have to involve sitting around indoors, though.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has encouraged residents to begin opening up their “pandemic bubble,” if it is safe for them and their families, to no more than six people. She’s said that barbecues and spending time outdoors will be OK, so long as people keep two metres of physical distance and practise good hygiene.
“You need to commit to each other for the coming weeks and months that you’re going to protect each other and care for each other,” Henry said on Wednesday.
Small campfires are allowed but other burning prohibitions remain in place. Fires must not be larger than 0.5 metres in height or width. People who plan to light a campfire as they enjoy day-use activities at provincial parks and recreation sites must remember to fully extinguish it and ensure the ashes are cold to the touch before leaving the area.
Other activities include visiting the local farmer’s market in order to buy local.
“Though some restrictions are expected to ease next week, it remains vital for everyone to maintain physical distancing and take other important measures to limit the spread of COVID-19,” the province said. “This includes staying home if you have any symptoms of illness, washing your hands frequently with soap and water and not touching your face.”
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