An aerial view of Zeballos village (A.Janisse)

Zeballos doesn’t expect to feel the pinch of COVID-19 restrictions until tourist season

With a small population, seasonal businesses and a single medical clinic, the coastal village braces for an impact, if any

Zeballos usually witnesses a surge in visitors each summer as tourists flock to the village on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The small community of 107 people is popular among travellers because of its picturesque scenery and wilderness recreation activities.

But travellers likely won’t be coming this summer.

“This year, there is not going to be a tourist season,” says Dan O’Connor, co-owner of popular tourist hotel Cedars Inn.

With everything but essential services shut down in the village, O’Connor and his wife Christina are also being cautious about their health, as they are senior citizens. They’ve cancelled reservations for bookings and have shut down the restaurant.

“Our biggest clientele is from Britain – naturally we had to cancel everything,” added O’Connor.

This hurdle comes after the coastal community was besieged by a wildfire in 2018, and most of its properties were affected by an evacuation order imposed for several months until its removal in May 2019.

RELATED: Evacuation order lifted for most of Zeballos, but five homes still affected

The couple also owns a grocery store in the vicinity, and although standard commodities are available, there has been a lot of logistical challenges. Designated as essential service, the store is open, allowing in only one customer at a time.

The owners had to work around availability of products, often replacing them or switching wholesale retailers.

“The person who looks after the store is scared to work nowadays with this pandemic,” said O’Connor pointing out that the village has one medical clinic staffed by a nurse and a couple of visiting physicians.

The village is highly reliant on Telehealth services for their medical consultations. To avoid further strain on the limited medical resources, the village of Zeballos issued a notice earlier this month asking visitors not to travel to the community to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Everyone in the village has been following protocol; however, O’Connor points out that there were still campers and trailers that came in during the Easter break.

“Access to the Ehatis reserve has been gated now and there’s clear instructions prohibiting entry for non-residents, but people were still visiting over the weekend,” he said.

On the other hand, with a small population and an even smaller business community, Zeballos is yet to witness any drastic impact, said Meredith Starkey, chief administrative officer of the village council.

“Since it is not yet tourist season, we haven’t been as impacted as I expected it to be in terms of the local economy,” she said.

Most residents usually go to Port McNeill for a grocery run or order commodities online.

“The biggest impact here however, is the closure of schools. The school is our primary community contact for the people of this village and not having that forum has been hard on everyone.”

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Homalco First Nation said that it will intervene in the judicial review sought by aquaculture companies with regards to federal decision to phase out 19 Discovery Island fish farms by 2022. In this picture from Sept. 24, a demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver.(Quinn Bender photo)
Aquaculture companies’ judicial review challenges reconciliation and Aboriginal Rights: First Nations

Homalco First Nation chief reacts to Mowi and Cermaq intervention in Discovery Island decision

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Black Creek residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

CSWM will be closing the landfill in Campbell River and opening the organics composting facility in 2022. In the meantime, the City of Campbell River was hoping for a break on yard waste drop-off for residents. Black Press file photo
Comox Strathcona waste board upholds yard waste drop-off fee

Campbell River had hoped for waiver until new organics facility opens

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at a fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. Mowi Canada has applied to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the decision by Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan to phase out salmon farming in the Discovery Islands by June, 2022. (Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward photo)
Major B.C. salmon farms seek court intervention in Discovery Islands ban

Fisheries minister is phasing out operations in the area by June 2022

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. on Oct. 31, 2018. Several Vancouver Island mayors and members of British Columbia’s salmon farming industry say a federal decision to phase out fish farming has left them feeling “disposable and discarded.” In a letter to Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, they say they weren’t consulted before she announced a plan to phase out open-net pen fish farming in the Discovery Islands over the next 18 months. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward
Strathcona Regional District pens letter to Trudeau about fish farm closure

Minister Jordan, MLA Babchuk and MP Blaney also included in letter

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Nanaimo RCMP are seeking the public’s help after a man allegedly assaulted a clerk at James General Store on Victoria Road on Jan. 18. (Submitted photo)
Suspect screams at customer then assaults store clerk in Nanaimo

RCMP asking for information about Jan. 18 incident at James General Store

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Members of the BC RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit (EDU) is on route to Drummond Park opposite of Fulford Habour on Saltspring Island after the discovery of a suspicious cylindrical-shaped device. (Google/Screencap)
Bomb disposal unit en route to Salt Spring Island after suspicious device found in park

Police say a resident discovered the device Wednesday morning in Drummond Park opposite BC Ferries terminal

Most Read