Canadian Coast Guard asks B.C. mariners to stay home to prevent spread of COVID-19

B.C. mariners are being asked to think twice about heading out on the water during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With parks closed and physical distancing restrictions in place for other outdoor activities, a day on the water may be a tempting idea. But Canadian Coast Guard assistant commissioner Roger Girouard is asking mariners to avoid non-essential trips.

In a letter addressed to mariners, Girouard asks that they help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by staying close to home.

“I know how tempting it is to get on your boat and escape the restrictions we are all currently living under,” he said.

“But we are also navigating uncharted waters right now, and it is up to all of us to do our part to reduce the spread of COVID-19 so that one day soon, we can fully enjoy the peace and beauty of coastal British Columbia.”

So far this year, the coast guard has responded to a “greater number” of search and rescue calls compared to the same time last year, he said. 

Each time they respond to a call, Girouard said search and rescue workers put themselves at risk of exposure to COVID-19 and use personal protective equipment that is needed by critical care workers.

Unnecessary boating trips increase the risk to search and rescue workers, he added.

‘Home … is the best place you can be right now”

B.C. coastal communities are urging people not to visit in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus and minimize strain on limited local health-care resources. 

The Heiltsuk Nation on the central coast has issued a bylaw banning non-residents from visiting and are turning away travellers on yachts and sailboats.

Girouard said those who choose to travel to coastal communities may not have access to fuel and other supplies when they arrive.

He is asking anyone who is sick or has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 to resist the temptation to get on a boat. 

“Home and within close proximity to health care is the best place you can be right now,” he said. “I know that seafarers are both self-reliant and fairly cautious.

“It’s time to take those principles to heart, keeping an eye to being on the water without impacting others.”

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