B.C. Premier John Horgan has announced that travel restrictions will be put into place across the province on Friday to combat the third wave of COVID-19, as the bans on social gatherings and in-restaurant dining were extended through the May long weekend.
“(Provincial health officer) Dr. (Bonnie) Henry has been saying for months and months and months: ‘Stay in your territory, stay in your community,'” Horgan said. “This is not the time to load up the Winnebago and travel around British Columbia.”
The province is asking everyone to stay in their health authority and only travel outside for essential reasons.
However, Horgan said people should not travel even within their health authority if it means booking accommodation in another community. For example, Vancouver and Whistler are in the same health authority but Horgan said no one should be travelling there and booking accommodation for a getaway.
Essential travel includes work and school so someone can travel outside their health authority for those reasons.
More details will come on Friday when Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth is expected to issue orders under the Emergency Program Act to restrict people’s ability to leave their health authority.
“This will be conducted through random audits, not unlike roadside checks or CounterAttack during the Christmas season,” Horgan explained.
“They will be susceptible to all travellers, not just some travellers, and again, they will be random and there will be a fine if you are travelling outside your area without a legitimate reason.”
Horgan said the province will also make sure to liaise with Black, Indigenous and people of colour to bring in these travel restrictions in a “way that does not give anyone fear.”
He said the police will be given no additional powers, but there will be random “audits” to catch those who are “blatantly disregarding the rules.”
“Everybody will be asked where they’re going and where they came from,” Horgan added.
“It’s not heavy-handed in my mind. It’s random and it will be done at a particular place at a particular time.”
The BC Civil Liberties Association said it has concerns about how the restrictions could disproportionately impact racialized people and asked whether motorists, cyclists, and transit users will all be checked.
Officials are also working with the tourism industry to “limit bookings” from people outside of a particular area, Horgan said.
At the end of this week, BC Ferries will stop bookings for anyone with RVs or campers and will contact people who have booked to make sure their travel is essential.
The corporation will also not add any additional sailings leading up to the long weekend as they have done in past years.
Horgan said signs will also be posted along the Alberta border, reminding anyone driving into B.C. that it should only be for essential travel.
The travel measures will remain in place until 11:59 p.m. on May 24.
“Do not plan a holiday until after the May long weekend,” Horgan said.
— With files from Jon Azpiri