U.K. man hoping to travel to Island on compassionate grounds


From his home in England, Philip Mowatt gets reports that his 91-year-old dad — who lives independently in Mill Bay with the help of friends and church goers — is on the decline.

With travel restrictions coming into force this week and amid highly transmissible COVID-19 variants, he said he can’t visit to assist with his dad’s care because the $2,000 fee to quarantine is too costly on top of travel rules that are too stringent.

“Given all these restrictions at this time it’s wildly impractical,” said Mowatt. COVID-19 tests are also needed prior to departure and after landing.

Mowatt said he could be trusted to isolate responsibly, but given the restrictions the way they are, he can’t imagine coming to Vancouver Island until the worst of the pandemic abates.

“The burden of his care has fallen on a few hands at the church,” Mowatt said. “His friends have been lifesavers as far as I’m concerned.”

Those friends report that Joe Mowatt is struggling and may need more help in the coming months. “He would have probably been dumped off in some home he would have hated if not for them,” said Mowatt, who was last on the Island two years ago.

Joe Mowatt was a Winnipeg police officer who took early retirement and moved with wife Ruth to Mill Bay in 1987. The two attended St. Frances Xavier Catholic Church in Mill Bay and Marian Movement of Priests. Ruth died at age 67 of cancer. Two years ago, Joe was diagnosed with Alzheimers.

Mowatt is one of many people whose travel is not essential, but he said unlike snowbirds and other vacationers he needs to travel on compassionate grounds and thinks there should be consideration of that in terms of the $2,000 quarantine fee.

On Tuesday, federal chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Canada is in “a very delicate period” as case counts for fast-spreading COVID-19 variants increase across the country, even while overall numbers of new coronavirus cases fall.

At least 148 cases of the variants that first emerged in the United Kingdom and South Africa have been confirmed across the country, Tam said Tuesday.

Health authorities in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. have identified both mutations, with 135 of the U.K. strain and 13 of the South Africa strain reported from coast to coast.

n B.C. alone there are 18 cases — 14 of the U.K variant and four of the South Africa variant.

The four cases of the South African variant in B.C. and the one case reported in Ontario have no known link to international travel. “I think there are definitely signs that the variants are at least transmitted to a certain extent in communities — and we probably are not detecting them all,” Tam said. “This is the initial signal that we need to be very vigilant and very cautious about relaxation of those public health measures.”

As the more contagious strains of COVID-19 take hold, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “rare exceptions” to travel restrictions will be made on compassionate grounds, but that tough rules must be implemented in the next few weeks.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic there have been stories of funerals that haven’t been able to be held, weddings had to (be) put off or done by Zoom, families not being able to get together,” Trudeau said at a press conference. “But at the same time our responsibility is to make sure we’re keeping Canadians as safe as possible. These new variants out there are of real concern.”

Trudeau announced last week that passengers returning from abroad will have to quarantine at hotels for up to three days after taking COVID-19 tests upon arrival, but no date has been set for when this will take effect.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said foreigners can still apply to enter the country for non-essential reasons that include supporting a critically ill person, attending a funeral or being with a loved one who is dying.

Total daily case counts of COVID-19 have been dropping for several weeks.

B.C. reported 429 new cases on Tuesday; 294 of those cases are in hospital including 82 in intensive or critical care.

There are 4,542 active cases in the province — including 27 new cases in the Island Health Region for a total of 278 — and another 7,080 people are being monitored. The majority of Island cases are in the central region that includes Duncan and Nanaimo. Eight additional deaths were reported on Tuesday, for a total of 1,218.

Over the past seven days, an average of 4,368 new cases have been reported daily across the country, a nearly 50 per cent drop from three weeks ago, Tam said.

Hospitalizations decling, falling 12 per cent over the past week to fewer than 3,900 patients in care. Fatal cases have fallen by 20 per cent to 128 deaths per day on average.

The federal public health agency said that as of Monday evening, 783,589 Canadians had contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began in Canada, and 20,136 had died.

In B.C., 140,452 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, 5,097 of which are second doses.