Kenora politicians to Manitoban cottagers: Please, just stay home during COVID-19 pandemic

Some Ontario politicians say they're concerned that cottagers from Manitoba aren’t listening to advice from public health officials to stay home. 

Mayor of Kenora, Ont., says he saw several cars with Manitoba licence plates on the weekend

Kenora-area politicians want Manitobans to stay home and away from their cottages during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by B'nai Brith Camp)

Some Ontario politicians say they're concerned that cottagers from Manitoba aren't listening to advice from public health officials to stay home.

Kenora Mayor Dan Reynard said he saw at least 20 Manitoba licence plates while driving around the western Ontario city on Saturday morning.

Not only that, Reynard said he's heard anecdotally that Kenora residents are still driving to Winnipeg to do their shopping. 

Reynard is frustrated that people aren't following the advice to stay home that has come from so many different health officials and levels of government. 

"This is not the time for cottagers to be going out to the lake. It's time to stay home," he said.

Dan Reynard, the mayor of Kenora, Ont., says he saw about 20 vehicles with Manitoba licence plates on Saturday. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Kenora is about 200 kilometres east of Winnipeg and the area is a popular destination for Winnipeggers, with many of the cottages in the area owned by Manitobans.

So far the small northern Ontario city hasn't had any cases of COVID-19, but Reynard is worried someone at the Lake of the Woods District Hospital could contract the virus, creating a scenario similar to what happened at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, where three dozen workers were asked to self-isolate after exposure to COVID-19.

"We've got a small hospital. We cannot afford to have that happen," he said. 

"So the more we reduce that threat, the better off everyone in our community, our surrounding communities and our First Nation communities."

Greg Rickford, the member of provincial parliament for Kenora-Rainy River, echoed Reynard's comments in an emailed statement, saying he's spoken with officials in municipalities, health units and Indigenous communities across northwestern Ontario who all share the same concern about cottagers' continued travel into the Kenora area.

"The Northwestern Health Unit does not have the capacity to deal [with] an influx in population during the COVID-19 outbreak," he said. 

"I am asking all seasonal residents to respect our efforts to contain the spread in northwestern Ontario and protect our health-care services. When this is over, we will welcome our friends from Manitoba with open arms, but right now we need everyone to do their part and stay home."

Manitoba's chief public health officer has repeatedly asked people to avoid non-essential travel, including to cottages.

With files from Meaghan Ketcheson