The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening our fragile Southern Gulf Island communities. The surge of visitors coming to these islands to seek refuge from the pandemic, are potentially compromising the health and well-being of Gulf Islands residents on Galiano, Mayne, Pender, Salt Spring, Saturna islands, plus many smaller islands in this region. These rural island communities do not have the appropriate services and emergency resources to deal with an extra 100, 200 or 300 more people.
Off-island visitors don’t know if they have been exposed to the virus – our islands cannot provide adequate support. “Today our Islands need to focus on the needs of residents, says Gary Holman, Salt Spring Island Electoral Area Director – “We need our Gulf Islands precious medical resources for our most vulnerable, especially for those who are immune compromised.”
Dave Howe, Southern Gulf Islands Electoral Area Director, representing Galiano, Mayne, Pender, Saturna islands, urges current visitors “to make plans to return to their permanent homes – you don’t know if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19. I urge you to stay home, and by doing so, protect yourself, your family and our island’s unique culture and way of life. Follow the government’s advisory – stay home and do not travel unless absolutely necessary.”
Resources to respond to the pandemic are limited – limited emergency responders, most volunteer; limited access to medical support, especially now; limited access to groceries; as more and more people prepare meals at home; limited ability to protect fragile water sources; reduced on and off island transportation; access to local support services (fire, safety) due to an increase in emergency events. Island businesses and services have scaled down or shut down.
During ‘normal times’ the Southern Gulf Islands welcomes visitors to enjoy the gifts of our natural resources and rural culture. Today is not that time.
The rural communities of the five Southern Gulf Islands, (Galiano, Mayne, Pender, Salt Spring, Saturna) are home to 16,000 people. These five islands are Electoral areas within the Capital Regional District (CRD). CRD is responsible for ensuring the continuation of essential services and for coordination of the island’s emergency responders.
Editorial Note: Read all official, current and ongoing updates on COVID-19 specifically related to Salt Spring Island on the Salt Spring Exchange under our News > 'Special Alert: COVID-19' News section.