VICTORIA — Non-essential travel is being restricted between three regional zones in British Columbia to try to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The government is using the boundaries of three health authorities to prohibit travel between them. The three regional zones are: the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley; Vancouver Island; and the northern and Interior regions.
Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, who is also the minister of public safety, says the new orders are being brought in using the extraordinary powers of the Emergency Program Act.
The order went into effect Friday and is to expire on May 25.
“We know this virus needs people to transmit, and the people travelling outside of communities increases COVID-19’s ability to spread,” Farnworth told a news conference.
“The surest path to the success of these measures is voluntary compliance. If a friend or family member is planning to break the rules, let them know that now is not the time to travel. Help spread the word.”
Farnworth said the restrictions are necessary to fight new variants of the COVID-19 virus that are infecting more people and causing a record number of hospitalizations.
The order targets travel across regional zones for recreational purposes. It is OK to travel for essential reasons, including to attend school or work, transport commercial goods, return to a principal residence, get access to child care, use health care or assist someone in obtaining health care.
Farnworth said the province is working with police to establish enforcement measures in the coming days, but officers will not be asked to do random checks and measures will be taken to limit the effect on racialized communities.
The province said in a news release that it wants to establish periodic road checks at key points used for leisure travel to “discourage” people from travelling. Police will have discretion to issue $575 fines under the act.
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.
The province is also looking at using signs on highways and increasing signage at the Alberta boundary to remind travellers of the restrictions.
It plans to work with BC Ferries to “deter” non-essential travel bookings, and with those in the tourism and accommodation sectors to encourage them to decline bookings from outside their regional travel zones as well as to cancel existing bookings.
BC Parks is to inform the public of the restrictions and refund bookings where it is necessary.
In a statement, Farnworth said advice from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also remains in effect — stay close to home.
“Do not go to Whistler or Tofino — even on a day trip,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2021.
The Canadian Press