Alberta, B.C. officials urge residents to stay home over Easter long weekend

Click to play video: '‘Bend the curve, not the rules:’ B.C. health minister has message ahead of long weekend' ‘Bend the curve, not the rules:’ B.C. health minister has message ahead of long weekend
WATCH ABOVE: Health Minister Adrian Dix had a message for British Columbians about travel, ahead of the Easter long weekend as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. And new information on PPE equipment and a meeting with religious leaders in the province. – Apr 7, 2020

As the Easter long weekend approaches, health officials in Alberta and British Columbia are urging residents to stick to their respective provinces as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a joint statement Thursday morning, the Alberta and B.C. health ministers said while travel between the provinces is typical during a long weekend, they noted these are “extraordinary times.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Should Canada restrict travel between provinces, territories?

“This long weekend is different,” read the statement from B.C.’s Adrian Dix and Alberta’s Tyler Shandro.

“A global pandemic puts us all at risk — and we all must stay home, stay in our communities and stay at a safe physical distance from others when outside.”

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While the border between Canada and the United States was closed to non-essential travel last month to help fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, provincial borders within Canada remain open.

READ MORE: Canada-U.S. land border closes to all non-essential travel

The health ministers noted many people have family members across the provincial borders and that the holiday without loved ones in person would be difficult. But they both stressed the importance of finding other ways to connect than in person.

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“Let us be clear: Staying home means no travelling — especially across our borders,” the statement said.

“We encourage everyone to find ways to connect virtually this long weekend, including by video chat or with phone calls.

“Continue to make every effort to protect loved ones, our elders and our health care workers.”

READ MORE: No public health officials screening for COVID-19 at Canadian land borders

Over the long weekend, the Town of Banff said its Emergency Co-ordination Centre will implement educational public health checkstops at the town’s entrances.

Officials said the checkstops will be focused on increasing drivers’ awareness about the importance of avoiding travel and visitation to Banff, except for essential highway travel. The goal is to keep people safe and help stop the spread of COVID-19.

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“The Town of Banff is not closed. But these checkstops will inform people who are still unaware of the clear direction from all orders of government to stay close to home, in order to limit the risk of coming in contact with COVID-19,” said Silvio Adamo, Banff’s director of emergency management.

“Travel significantly increases the possibility of contracting COVID-19 and spreading the virus to others, and it is completely avoidable for most people.”

The checkstops will be staffed by RCMP, Banff community peace officers and firefighters. Town officials said visitors will be informed of the current public health directives which advise against non-essential travel.

Town officials said people will be asked if they are Bow Valley residents and if not, their access to the townsite will not be denied. However, they said people will be encouraged to return to their home community.

“The Town of Banff relies on visitation for our economy, and we feel people from the Calgary region are part of our community – this is their backyard getaway. But now is not the time for travel,” Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen said.

The checkstops will be located at the entrances to town, immediately south of the Trans-Canada Highway at:

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  • Mount Norquay Road entrance to Banff
  • Banff Avenue Road at Compound Road

Towns and municipal districts near provincial boundaries are also asking campers and second-home owners to stay away.

In the East Kootenays, an area in British Columbia that includes Invermere, Golden and Radium Hot Springs, the district’s board of directors has asked the provincial health officer to close the provincial boundary with Alberta.

Officials are concerned the area’s small rural hospitals cannot handle additional people.

Similar concerns are being raised in Kenora, Ont., where the mayor wants all non-essential travel into his community from Manitoba to be stopped.

Dan Renard says it’s difficult to ask its summer residents and visitors to stay away, but he says the health-care system simply doesn’t have the capacity to meet the needs of a growing population.

He has asked the Ontario government for the boundary between Ontario and Manitoba to be closed.

Checkpoints are already in place on the Manitoba side of the boundary, but no one from Ontario is being denied entry.

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With files from The Canadian Press.

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