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Province launches travel restrictions to curb COVID-19

The province’s new travel restrictions are now in effect.

This morning, B.C. solicitor general Mike Farnworth mapped out a blueprint for the restrictions designed to limit non-essential travel across the province.

He’s using powers of the Emergency Program Act to ban non-essential travel between three regional zones in the province, using health authority boundaries. They are:

  • Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley (Fraser Health and Coastal Health regions);
  • Vancouver Island (Island Health region); and
  • Northern/Interior (Interior Health and Northern Health regions).

In the coming days, the province will also work with police to set up periodic road checks at key travel corridors during, the province says, “times associated with leisure travel to remind travellers of the order.”

These road checks will be set up near ferry terminals and on major highways connecting different regions of the province.

If deemed necessary police, fines for $575 can be handed for violating the Emergency Program Act travel.

Farnworth said there will be specific funding set aside for the police departments to enforce the restrictions: “We fully recognize that this is an initiative related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of a provincial health order so there will be provincial monies to put this in place.”

Police will not engage in random checks, and enforcement measures will be informed by discussions with stakeholders on limiting the impacts to racialized communities. 

While the order puts legal limits only on travel between regional zones, the PHO’s guidance remains unchanged throughout B.C.: everyone should continue to stay within their local community – essential travel only.

It’ll be in effect through to May 25th, 2021, (after the May long weekend) and applies to everyone in the province, including non-essential travellers from outside B.C.

“The new variant strains are infecting more people and resulting in record levels of hospitalizations that place a growing strain on the front-line health workers who have been here for us throughout this pandemic. To help protect them and our communities, we must do more to discourage travel and begin to enforce restrictions on non-essential travel,” Farnworth said. 

“While this new legal order targets those who are travelling across regional zones for recreational purposes, the advice from (provincial health officer) Dr. (Bonnie) Henry to stay local remains in place everywhere in B.C. Do not go to Whistler or Tofino – even on a day trip. Everyone should stay close to home.”

This order applies to non-essential travel. 

There are circumstances where travel is essential and allowed, such as attending school or work, the commercial transportation of goods, returning to a principal home, accessing child care, obtaining health care or assisting someone to receive health care. 

“Community transmission and COVID-19 cases – including variants of concern – have increased in our health authorities, with many cases being linked to non-essential travel within B.C.,” Henry said. 

“I am calling on everyone to stay in their local communities and support these travel restrictions to stop the most dangerous travel across regional zones to control the spread of COVID-19 and support our front-line health-care workers.”

To help ensure this travel restriction is effective, the province is also working with:

  • The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure – on highway signage and increasing signage along the border with Alberta;
  • BC Ferries – to restrict non-essential vehicle passage, deter non-essential bookings and limit sailings;
  • tourism and accommodation industry association leaders – to strongly encourage all operators/businesses to support the order by declining new bookings from outside their regional zones and cancelling existing bookings from outside their regional zones;
  • BC Parks – to inform the public about restrictions and refund bookings where necessary; and
  • police departments – on establishing enforcement measures in the coming days.

The province says the goal will be education and further discouraging people from travelling for non-essential reasons. 

This order applies to non-essential travel. 

It does not apply to:

  • carrying out a work-related purpose, including volunteer work;
  • moving to a different principal residence or assisting a person to move for that purpose;
  • commercially transporting goods;
  • receiving health-care services or social services or assisting someone to receive those services;
  • attending court;
  • complying with a court order;
  • spending parenting time with a minor child;
  • accessing child care;
  • attending classes or receiving training at a post-secondary institution or school;
  • responding to an emergency or a critical incident, including incidents that involve search and rescue operations;
  • providing care or assistance to a person who requires care or assistance because of:
  • a psychological, behavioural or health condition; or
  • a physical, cognitive or mental impairment.
  • visiting by an essential visitor as provided in the guidance of the Ministry of Health set out in a document titled Ministry of Health – Overview of Visitors in Long-Term Care and Seniors’ Assisted Living that was in effect on April 1, 2021;
  • attending a funeral service;
  • travelling under the authority of a variance of an order issued by the provincial health officer under the Public Health Act if the variance was made before this section comes into force;
  • travelling by residents of the local health areas of Bella Coola Valley or Central Coast to Port Hardy to obtain essential goods and supplies;
  • travelling by residents of the local health area of Hope to Chilliwack to obtain essential goods and supplies;
  • travelling by residents of the Nisga’a Health Authority region into the Northern-Interior Health Authority region; and/or
  • returning to one’s own principal residence.
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