Wednesday, 4 Aug 2021

Coronavirus: Concern over long-weekend travellers causing social media stir in Okanagan

Social media in B.C. is awash with rants about travellers this Easter long weekend, with most questioning the need to visit in spite of health officials requesting people to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic.

The rants range greatly in tone and accuracy, so readers need to take a pinch of salt with some responses.

Still, it’s a hot-topic issue, and with the May long weekend on the horizon, this scenario could repeat itself.

Below are a handful of comments posted to Global Okanagan’s Facebook page:

  • “Nearly every cottage on the road I live on have people arriving from the coast. We have been very diligent here trying to keep our small community safe and our health resources, too. Go home people. Do not pass go. Just go home.”
  • There are an awful lot of Alberta plates driving around and setting up. Only B.C. residents are supposed to be here.”
  • “I wish people would stay home. Not everyone washes their hands, sneezes and coughs into their elbow (usually over or under) some are carriers and don’t know it. This is trouble.”
  • “Saw a ton of Alberta plates in Osoyoos today. And no, they aren’t snowbirds headed home to Alberta, the motel parking lots were full of red plates.”
  • “[Out of] towners should have stayed in own province.”

This week, Global News has fielded several calls and emails from the South Okanagan and area about out-of-province vehicles.

On Friday, Global News contacted Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff, who, on the town’s website, has asked people to avoid non-essential travel.

McKortoff said she recently went driving around, looking for out-of-province plates at local hotels.

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The mayor said she saw a lot less traffic and visitors than normal, adding she had a hard time spotting out-of-province plates, though she did see a few.

However, on Saturday, Osoyoos resident Peter Steele said while there’s less traffic than expected, there’s still plenty of visiting vehicles.

“A big reduction over a normal Easter weekend, but certainly more vehicles from out of town,” he said. “Some Alberta plates, second-home condos seem to have a lot more traffic.

“And particularly if you go to the liquor store and the grocery store, the parking lot is three-quarters full, which is like any other summer weekend. So it seems like a lot more people in town than you think there might be.”

While a few out-of-province plates may seem many to some, there are former Alberta residents now living in the Okanagan who still keep their vehicles registered with Alberta places because of insurance rates.

As to how many Alberta-insured vehicles there are permanently residing in B.C., that’s unknown.

Global News reached out to ICBC earlier this week about that issue. ICBC said it’s not able to track Alberta-insured vehicles in B.C., unless they were either insured or registered in B.C.

However, ICBC said it would look into how many incidents there are in southern B.C., regarding licensed vehicles from Alberta.

Global News also reached out to the B.C. RCMP regarding non-essential travel this long weekend, with police stating on Saturday they echo concerns raised by communities, and have asked residents to avoid non-essential travel.

This week, B.C. RCMP commanding officer Jennifer Strachan said: “Explore B.C. later.”

“In British Columbia, I know we are all doing our best to follow the directions of our provincial health officer and authorities,” said Strachan.

“Many of us are finding new and creative ways to overcome the challenges we are all experiencing. I feel we are more connected to each other than ever and are making conscious and virtual efforts to stay in touch with our families, friends, and loved ones.

“There is tremendous work being done around B.C. by our police officers, health-care workers, first responders, grocery store personnel, and other essential services. They deserve to be lauded. These individuals are making sacrifices for us so let’s return the favour.”

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