B.C. restricts travel to and from Interior and Lower Mainland to stop COVID-19 spread | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. restricts travel to and from Interior and Lower Mainland to stop COVID-19 spread

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth issues a new order using the extraordinary powers of the Emergency Program Act to prohibit non-essential travel between three regional zones in the province, using health authority boundaries, Friday, April 23, 2021.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Province of B.C.
April 23, 2021 - 10:29 AM

The province's new health region travel restrictions will punish Interior residents if they travel unnecessarily to the Lower Mainland but they can go into the northern part of B.C.

The new rules, as outlined by Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth at a news briefing today, April 23, have combined the Interior Health and Northern Health regions into one region where people are allowed non-essential travel.

The Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal regions have been similarly combined but Vancouver Island remains pretty much as is.

Anyone caught travelling for non-essential reasons between the three areas can be fined $575.

The new orders are being brought in using the extraordinary powers of the Emergency Program Act. They will remain in place until the end of the day on May 25 and are in effect immediately.

While signs will be posted at the Alberta border suggesting out-of-province travellers not visit B.C., they will only be fined if the are caught crossing into the Lower Mainland. They will be able to visit the Interior and North with no penalty.

“We need to hunker down and stay locaI,” Farnworth said. “If we act now and do the right things, we can still have a summer that is more like those that we are all used to.”

He urged all British Columbians to follow provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice to stay local. That means, for example, people should not travel from Vancouver to Chilliwack for recreation. But those are suggestions and not orders so no fines would be levied if people disobey.

Hotels, campgrounds and tourism operations are encouraged to cancel existing reservations and not take new ones from outside the combined health regions but this is strictly voluntary. BC Parks is to inform the public of the restrictions and refund bookings where it is necessary. The province plans to work with BC Ferries to "deter" non-essential travel bookings.

In terms of enforcement, Farnworth said more details will be released following further discussions with police forces in the province.

Periodic road checks, similar to the drunk driving Counter Attack programs, could be used where Highway 1 leaves the Lower Mainland and continues up the Fraser Canyon and along the Coquihalla and Hope-Princeton highways.

The idea is to try to stop the spread of COVID-19 from hot spots in the Lower Mainland to other parts of the province, Farnworth said.

Earlier this week, the National Police Federation said it had "grave concerns" about police taking part in enforcing a COVID-19 ban on non-essential travel.

A B.C. government website gives a long list of what is considered as essential reasons to travel. Details of the new orders and a full list of essential reasons for travel can be seen here.

Reasons for essential travel include:

  • Returning to your principal residence, moving or helping someone move
  • Work, both paid and unpaid
  • Commercial transportation of goods
  • Getting health care or social services or helping someone get those services
  • Court appearance, complying with a court order or parole check-in
  • Shared custody agreement
  • Child care services
  • Attending school at a post-secondary institution
  • Responding to a critical incident, like search and rescue operations
  • Providing care to people for a number of reasons
  • Being an essential visitor at a range of facilities
  • Attending a funeral

— With files from The Canadian Press

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