VANCOUVER -- While B.C. residents are strongly urged to avoid any travel outside of Canada, many towns in the province are asking all visitors to stay away and stay home.

On Sunday, trustees from across the Gulf and Howe Sound islands issued a notice asking all visitors to stay away during the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

"Now is not the time to be visiting the islands," said Peter Luckham, chair of Islands Trust Council, in a news release. 

Luckham said most of the islands have a median age that's over 60. 

"First responders are volunteers who are practicing sheltering in place in order to be available for normal emergencies. We urge everyone to stay home and avoid discretionary travel to and from the islands," he said. 

"As ferry-dependent communities, we are especially vulnerable and face additional challenges. Now is not the time to take a holiday or visit your vacation property."

Last week, the Vancouver Island coastal town of Tofino issued a similar plea, asking visitors to postpone any trips "for the next several weeks."

"For now, please enjoy Tofino vicariously through images and your memories of past visits, and make plans to visit us again when our community is ready to host you and give you an incredible experience," said Tofino's mayor, Josie Osborne, in a news release. 

"This recommendation is temporary only – just as the COVID-19 pandemic is – and we look forward to welcoming everyone back again soon."

On the mainland, Squamish is also asking visitors to keep their distance for now. 

The Stawamus Chief was closed Sunday over coronavirus concerns and the Sea to Sky Gondola announced on March 18 it was suspending operations amid the outbreak.

Whistler is also asking visitors to postpone their trips. Earlier in the month, the ski resort suspended its operations.

"For those not in Whistler, this is not the time to travel. I ask that you stay home for now until we can welcome you with open arms again," Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton said in a news release. 

"Explore B.C. … later"

Echoing these calls from B.C. towns, the province's tourism organization, Destination BC, is asking travellers to explore the province later. 

"Like you, we're passionate about exploring B.C. But now is not the time to travel. Please stay home and follow the advice of health authorities," the organization says on its website. "Do your part now, so we can all explore B.C. again later.

Last week, the federal government announced it was denying entrance to most travellers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents. All Canadians are advised to avoid non-essential travel outside the country, including to the United States and anyone who chooses to travel outside Canada must self-isolate for 14 days when they return. 

"The duration of this crisis will be determined by the choices we make right now … so if you want things to get back to normal, do your part. Stay home," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday morning while addressing the country from Ottawa. 

"If you've just returned from abroad, go straight home from the airport and do not leave for at least 14 days. This is not a suggestion. You cannot pick up groceries or visit your parents or your friends. You need to go home and stay there."