The BC government will be bringing in a new order to restrict non-essential travel within the province, beginning this Friday, April 23.
“There will be orders in place,” BC Premier John Horgan confirmed on Monday during a press conference.
Orders will be issued under the Emergency Program Act “to restrict people’s ability to leave their health authority,” said Horgan. “This will be conducted through random audits, not unlike roadside counter-attacks, and will be susceptible to all travellers, and they will be random, and there will be a fine if you are travelling outside of your area, without a legitimate reason.”
The premier said the province will also be “consulting with the BIPOC community to make sure that we bring forward these restrictions in a way that does not give anyone fear that there will be additional repercussions. This is about travel; there will be no additional authority given to police, it will be to ensure people are following the guidelines.”
Horgan said the province has also been working with representatives from the tourism industry “to reduce – in fact, eliminate – bookings from people outside of a particular area.”
He stressed people should not attempt to book something outside of their area, because “the tourism operator will not book you passage.”
Asked about the tools that would be in place to stop people from travelling outside their region, and how the roadside checks and enforcement would specifically work, Horgan said BC is “looking at other restrictions, and we’ve taken guidance from those areas. It is not our objective to go into some sort of a state where we’re watching and monitoring everyone’s activity.”
And when it comes to potential consequences for those found to be flouting the new travel orders, Horgan said the Provincial Health Officer would be working with the Ministry of Public Safety “to make sure this is not overly complicated.”
Horgan said answers to these questions would become more clear “once Minister Farnworth brings forth the order [on Friday].”
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Also beginning this Friday, Horgan said BC Ferries will no longer be accepting bookings for recreational vehicles like campers and trailers, and for those who have booked, “BC Ferries will also be contacting their passengers that have booked reservations to make sure that their travel is essential.”
In a similar fashion, because camping is not considered a reason for essential travel, the province said these recreational trips will need to be cancelled if they are outside of someone’s health authority.
Horgan said the minister in charge of BC Parks, George Heyman, is working with the agency to ensure that anyone who has booked a camping reservation outside of their health authority will be refunded for their booking.
Finally, new signs will also be posted along the BC-Alberta border, advising out-of-province travellers that they should only be coming into BC for essential purposes. “Unless they’re coming for essential business, they should not be here,” said Horgan. “They should be back in their home communities.”
As for how long the new restrictions would be in effect, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said it would last at least until – and up to the end of – the May long weekend.