BC Premier John Horgan said the provincial government is implementing new measures in the ongoing battle against coronavirus.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Horgan said these measures include a new legal requirement for a self-isolation plan, support the provincial health officer’s travel orders, and reinforce the federal emergency order under the Quarantine Act requiring people entering Canada to self-isolate for 14 days.
“As we welcome British Columbians back home, we must stay vigilant and do everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Horgan. “As we follow the advice and guidance of our provincial health officer, it’s also important to take care of one another.”
Effective immediately, international travellers (including from the United States) coming to the province are required to provide a self-isolation plan before or upon arrival to BC, regardless of their point of entry to Canada.
This plan “is not just a suggestion,” Horgan stressed. “It is a directive from the public health office, it’s consistent with the Quarantine Act that has been put in place by the federal government, and it’s mandatory for those coming back to British Columbia to have a plan.” This document – which can be submitted online or completed in person on arrival – “must show” that returning travellers have supports in place to safely self-isolate for 14 days.
Horgan said the federal government will continue to use its authority under the Quarantine Act to ensure compliance with the emergency order enforceable by the RCMP.
“We’re going to be taking steps with the federal government to ensure that travellers coming back to Canada…will be met by BC officials, by federal officials, and they will be required to explain in detail, with forms that have been provided to them during their trip, – and are also available on the web –to ensure that these legal documents are completed upon arrival and that the plan has been put in place,” he furthered. The plans must also be approved by BC officials.
If no-self isolation plan is presented, “a quarantine site will be prepared and made available to those individuals, until they can get themselves together,” said Horgan.
The Premier was also asked what people should do if they see someone violating the orders, or is concerned they may not be following the proper protocol, and who they should notify.
“We’ve been working with public safety officials to empower bylaw officers and others, and that’s a work in progress – this all is a work in progress,” he answered. “Our expectation is that if citizens see fellow citizens acting badly, they they approach them and encourage them to get back into their house or place of isolation, and if that’s unsuccessful, I think they should contact authorities.”
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Maximum penalties for breaking the federal emergency order include fines of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment for six months, or up to $1 million and/or imprisonment up to three years for a person who causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm.
Beginning on Friday, April 10, provincial officials will be on hand at the Vancouver International Airport and major land border crossings to make sure self-isolation plans are complete and to assist those who need it.
Asked why these types of measures were not brought in sooner, and if he had any concerns about people who have already returned to the province since the beginning of the pandemic, Horgan said the province has been “raising this with the federal government for some time.”
Noting that he has spoken to its CEO Horgan added that “YVR has been very good… and we need to make sure we’re providing a seamless transition for those who are returning… that they have the tools they need to achieve the objectives that we want to see.”
He also noted that Thursday, April 9 will be the last day flights from the US are allowed to land in Kelowna, and Victoria, leaving Vancouver as the only BC destination for inbound international flights.
This he said, means that the ability to manage the issue of returning travellers “has greatly improved.”
Through Service BC, the province will follow up with travellers in self-isolation via telephone calls and text messages to make sure people have the support they need to complete their mandatory self-isolation. If required, the province will work with travellers to modify self-isolation plans to ensure public safety.