Travel and timing: Alberta and B.C. release provincial plans to reopen

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WATCH ABOVE: Alberta and British Columbia both unveiled their roadmaps this week for reopening the economy and lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Jessica Robb has more on the notable differences when it comes to timelines and travel – May 27, 2021

Both Alberta and British Columbia released their provincial reopening plans earlier this week as COVID-19 vaccinations continue to ramp up.

Both strategies are tied to vaccine uptake, while monitoring COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. While the benchmarks look similar, the opening phases differ.

B.C.’s Restart: A Plan to Bring Us Back Together is made up of four steps. Step 1 was reached on May 25 when at least 60 per cent of the 18+ population had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Step 4, the final step, could be reached Sept. 7, at the earliest. It would require more than 70 per cent of the 18+ population to have at least one dose.

Read more: COVID-19: B.C. lays out restart plan including a return to normal by September

Alberta’s Open for Summer Plan is made up of three stages. Stage 1 will begin on June 1, two weeks after 50 per cent of the 12+ population received their first dose and since hospitalizations are below 800 and declining. Stage 3, where all restrictions would be lifted, could be reached as early as June 28, two weeks after 70 per cent of the 12+ population receives their first dose. There would be no official hospitalization threshold in the final stage.

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Read more: COVID-19: Kenney outlines Alberta’s reopening plan for summer

Premier Jason Kenney referenced travel during Stage 3 on Wednesday’s announcement.

“We’ll also welcome back at domestic and international visitors to Alberta to experience everything that our great province has to offer.

“But of course, the federal government will continue to have ultimate authority over international travel protocols.”

Alberta has never put travel restrictions in place, instead encouraging only essential travel.

The Alberta government released its “Open for Summer” plan Wednesday, May 26, 2021, to lift COVID-19 restrictions in three stages. Credit: Alberta government

B.C. took it a step further.

In April, signs were placed along the Alberta border reminding travellers that coming to B.C. should only be for essential reasons.

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Click to play video: 'How BC’s new rules against non-essential travel impact Albertans' How BC’s new rules against non-essential travel impact Albertans
How BC’s new rules against non-essential travel impact Albertans – Apr 23, 2021

Within the province, recreational travel is only allowed within your region. This will be in place under the Emergency Program Act Ministerial Order No. M212 until June 15 at midnight.

Read more: Alberta ‘respects’ B.C.’s decision to restrict travel as legalities of measure questioned

B.C.’s Restart Plan doesn’t permit recreational travel from outside the province until Stage 3, which the province indicates won’t come until July 1 at the earliest.

B.C.’s four-part restart plan. Government of BC

Like many other industries, the tourism sector took a hit during the pandemic.

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As long as travelling can be done safely, Tourism Lethbridge is happy to welcome visitors from outside Alberta.

“When we talk about welcoming visitors back to the city, it is certainly in accordance with the rules and regulations that are put down by the medical professionals and provincial rules,” said Stephen Braund, marketing director at Tourism Lethbridge.

Click to play video: 'What the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta is hoping for this summer' What the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta is hoping for this summer
What the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta is hoping for this summer – May 22, 2021

Braund added that Lethbridge is in a unique position, with four Unesco World Heritage Sites only a day’s trip away.

“Of course we want to welcome back as many travellers as possible,” he said. “We’re fortunate in that we have so many outdoor attractions, so we are the perfect place to sort of dip your toes back into the travel waters to stay outside and enjoy the outdoors.”

Read more: Here’s how countries are preparing to reopen borders that were shut by COVID-19

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Travel Alberta has previously said the provincial visitor economy suffered a single-year drop in 2020 of $4.9 billion, which is a 48 per cent decrease from 2019.

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