Mounties clear blockade targeting tourists heading to western Vancouver Island
VICTORIA -- Mounties on Vancouver Island have cleared a highway blockade that residents had erected in an effort to prevent the novel coronavirus from reaching the island's western communities of Tofino and Ucluelet.
The RCMP say five people were obstructing the westward flow of traffic on Highway 4 on Tuesday morning near Sutton Pass, west of Port Alberni.
The residents told CTV News they were trying to turn away tourists, especially those from the United States, but allowing area residents to pass through.
"After discussions with officers, the situation was quickly resolved and the traffic flow was again allowed to proceed normally," the RCMP said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "No westbound vehicles were denied travel, however several vehicles decided themselves to turn around."
Many B.C. residents have raised concerns that the province's border with Washington state remains open amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Washington's death toll from the virus reached 50 on Tuesday, the highest number of deaths in the United States.
On Friday, Premier John Horgan said the federal government needs to "up their game" to protect British Columbians at the border with the United States.
On Tuesday, Horgan expressed his ongoing frustration with the situation and said he spoke with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee about the issue of border-crossers.
"He understands that his message to Washingtonians is the same: Stay home," Horgan said.
"If people are coming to Butchart Gardens, it's best to come in August, not to come in April."
Vancouver Island RCMP officers are reminding the public to follow the directions of provincial health authorities with regards to the coronavirus threat.
"We understand that people have concerns and wish to do their part to mitigate the risk to their communities," Cpl. Chris Manseau said.
"In order to do so, we must continue to follow direction given by the provincial health authorities and not put yourself or the motoring public at risk by obstructing traffic."