Everything you need to know about BC's new travel restrictions

Apr 23 2021, 5:37 pm

The provincial government has detailed the new orders restricting non-essential travel for people living in British Columbia.

The announcement was made on Friday morning by Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth. It includes measures for preventing travel across health regions, travelling on ferries, bookings, camping reservations, as well as occasional road checks and border signage.

“While I’m disappointed additional measures are necessary, I am taking further action to carry us through the current spike in COVID-19 cases until more of the population can be vaccinated in the coming weeks,” Farnworth says.

Here’s everything you need to know about the new orders:

When and how long it will be in effect for

The order comes into effect immediately and will remain in place until after the May long weekend, which is May 25, 2021. It applies to everyone in BC, including non-essential visitors from outside of the province.

Regional zones

The provincial government has combined some of BC’s health authorities together in order to create “regional zones.”

“People will be able to travel within the region or combined region in which they reside, but not out of their region or combined region,” Farnworth explains. “This order is to ensure that people stop traversing large parts of the province.”

Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health, which encompasses the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley, will be considered one health region. Interior Health and Northern Health will make up another regional zone. The third and final zone will be Vancouver Island, which has been slightly adjusted. People are still encouraged, however, to stay within their local community.

“While this model doesn’t stop someone from travelling large distances within their own region… that doesn’t mean that these trips should be happening,” Farnworth notes.

What is considered essential?

Farnworth says that there are many exemptions to the travel restrictions, including travel for work, school, and the transportation of goods.

He stressed that the order is primarily intended to stop people from travelling for recreational purposes.

Here are all of the reasons that are considered “essential” for travelling between health districts:

  • Returning to your principal residence, moving or helping someone move
  • Work, both paid and unpaid (volunteer)
  • Commercial transportation of goods
  • Getting healthcare or social services or helping someone get those services
  • Court appearance, complying with a court order or parole check-in
  • Shared custody agreement
  • Childcare services
  • Attending school at a post-secondary institution
  • Responding to a critical incident, like search and rescue operations
  • Providing care to a person because of a psychological, behavioural or health condition, or a physical, cognitive or mental impairment
  • Providing care or assistance to a person who is seriously ill, disabled or has a physical or cognitive impairment
  • Visiting a resident (as an essential visitor) at:
    • A community care facility licensed under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act that provides long term care within the meaning of section 2 of the Residential Care Regulation
    • A private hospital licensed under the Hospital Act
    • A non-profit institution that has been designated as a hospital under the Hospital Act and is operated primarily for the reception and treatment of persons requiring extended care at a higher level than that generally provided in a private hospital licensed under the Hospital Act
  • Attending a funeral

Roadside checks

Police across the province will also set up “periodic roadside checks,” which Farnworth says are similar to the roadside counter-attack programs that target impaired drivers during long weekends and holidays.

They will be set up near ferry terminals and highway corridors that connect different regions of the province. Exact details of this measure have not been shared and are expected next week, although the provincial government says that “police will not engage in random checks.”

Travel bookings

The province says that they’re working with leaders within the tourism and accommodation industry to decline new bookings from outside of their regional zones and cancel any existing bookings.

Camping bookings

Camping is not considered a reason for essential travel, and the recreational trips will need to be cancelled if they are outside of someone’s health authority. George Heyman, the minister in charge of BC Parks, is working to ensure that anyone who has booked a camping reservation outside of their health authority will be refunded for their booking.

Ferry travel within BC

BC Ferries has announced that it will deny customers who are travelling for non-essential reasons on the following routes, which cross between regional zones:

  • Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay
  • Tsawwassen – Duke Point
  • Tsawwassen – Southern Gulf Islands
  • Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay
  • Comox – Powell River
  • Port Hardy – Prince Rupert

Customers will still be able to travel on routes that operate within the same regional zone, although they will be reminded that they should be avoiding non-essential travel. Additionally, BC Ferries will not be scheduling extra sailings for the May long weekend.

ICBC road tests

Farnworth notes that ICBC will be contacting anyone who has booked a road test outside of their regional zone and will be encouraging them to book at a nearby location.

The BC-Alberta border

The provincial government will be installing signs on highways and along the provincial border with Alberta, urging that visitors do not come into BC unless it is for essential purposes.

Fines for breaking the non-essential travel order

Police will be permitted to hand out fines if compliance measures are deemed necessary. Farnworth says that contravening this order can result in a $575 fine.

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