VICTORIA -- The District of Tofino has asked all travellers to postpone trips to the area and for visitors already in the community to leave to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

The district says that it is following public health advisements and is restricting travel to essential trips only to and from the community.

The municipality says that it is taking a proactive approach to the COVID-19 pandemic as it is a smaller community with "extremely limited health care resources."

Meanwhile, the district says that it will be reducing municipal operations to “essential services” only and that it is asking businesses to scale down to protect the health of residents.

"This has been a difficult decision,” said Laura McDonald, president of the Tofino Chamber of Commerce in a statement Wednesday.

“We take pride in welcoming visitors to our community, and we are looking forward to welcoming everyone back to Tofino in the near future. I am a local health-care provider, and we have to concentrate on meeting the health needs of our communities at this time."

The district did not specify when visitors would be allowed to return to the municipality, but did say that travellers were asked to postpone any trips for at least “several weeks.”

Guests who are currently in the town are asked to contact the local Tofino Visitor Information Services and their accommodations providers if they have any questions.

“For now, please enjoy Tofino vicariously through images and your memories of past visits, and make plans to visit us again when our community is ready to host you and give you an incredible experience,” said Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne.

“This recommendation is temporary only – just as the COVID-19 pandemic is – and we look forward to welcoming everyone back again soon.”

On Tuesday, Mounties on Vancouver Island cleared a gathering of people who were disrupting traffic along Highway 4 in an effort to dissuade tourists from reaching the western communities of Tofino and Ucluelet.