Premier, officials concerned about U.S. travellers on Vancouver Island, Quadra Island
VICTORIA -- As U.S. health officials announce record-breaking daily COVID-19 infections, Vancouver Island's regional tourism communities are on edge.
According to B.C. Premier John Horgan, small destinations on Vancouver Island are tracking incidents where American travellers have been spotted.
"I was speaking to the local chief of the Pacheedaht (First Nation) and he tells me that there was a licence plate from Texas and a licence plate from California at the Port Renfrew General Store," Horgan said in a Thursday morning news conference.
"If you are heading to Alaska, you don’t go through Port Renfrew," Horgan added. "We are concerned about this phenomenon and we are hearing about it in communities right around the province."
On nearby Quadra Island, reports of American tourists are causing a rift between residents and the local business owners who rely on tourist dollars at this time of year.
"People are quite upset by the fact that people are coming onto the island that are from areas that are extremely hot right now as far as COVID-19 is concerned," said Jim Abram, the regional district director for Discovery Islands-Mainland Inlets.
"It is inappropriate, maybe even illegal, for people to travel from the States into B.C. to come here to visit, stay, whatever," Abram said.
"They are basically just free to roam and they have this loophole that, well, if they are going through to Alaska. But give me a break, people are not going through to Alaska."
A clerk at Port Renfrew's San Juan Market tells CTV News they have had several incidents where travellers with American plates had attempted to enter the store.
Non-essential travellers from the U.S. are banned from entering Canada until July 21. Foreign nationals from other countries are barred until July 31, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.
“Outbreaks in Washington State, California , Arizona and Texas are absolutely unacceptable," said Horgan. "We have to maintain our border security so we can protect the progress we have made here in British Columbia."
The premier said he is concerned that some U.S. citizens, who are being let through the border to visit or return to Alaska, are instead visiting B.C. destinations.
On Quadra Island, the regional director says ferry traffic "has increased exponentially" over the same time last summer.
"This is getting to the point where people need to step it up, they need to look at the big picture and they have to realize we are not equipped for the impending emergency that is coming and there's no way you're going to convince me it's not going to happen," Abram said.
Horgan said he has made renewed calls to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Chrystia Freeland to strengthen checks at B.C. border crossings.
CTV News has reached out to the Pacheedaht First Nation for a comment.