People traveling to and from areas covered by the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health authorities are not going to be subject to travel restrictions.
“The Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health authorities will be treated as one health authority,” B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said on Wednesday (April 21).
The B.C. government is expected to announce Friday (April 23) more details of travel restrictions that will be imposed to check the surge of COVID-19 infections.
Essentially, the measure will restrict travel between health authorities.
“You’re likely to see something at the [B.C.] Ferries, for example,” Farnworth said.
“The other obvious location is when you head into the Interior just before Hope, if you were going to take [Highway 1] or the Hope-Princeton, or the Coquihalla. But you will not be seeing anything on Boundary Road — in Vancouver or Burnaby, or the Tri-Cities, for example,” the minister said.
Farnworth said the travel restrictions, set to take effect April 23, could prevent people from coming into B.C. from elsewhere in Canada.
“There will be signs at the border …. Essential travel only. I can tell you, though, that if someone does come in to British Columbia, they will not be able to go to another health authority. They will not be able to go from the Alberta border down to Vancouver,” Farnworth said.
“If we need to take additional steps or are able to take additional steps, that would be something that we will look at,” he added.
When it comes to whether the province can ban travellers from coming in through the Alberta border, Farnworth said “It is not an easy thing to do. There are a lot of challenges, particularly here in British Columbia, around that.”
“There will be full and comprehensive [details on] what is considered essential travel,” Farnworth promised.
Vancouver Coastal Health oversees health care in Vancouver, Richmond, North and West Vancouver, regions along the Sea to Sky Highway, the Sunshine Coast and parts of B.C.’s Central Coast.
Fraser Health covers Burnaby, New Westminster, Delta, White Rock, Surrey, Port Moody, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Langley, Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Kent, Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs and Hope.
Island Health oversees health care on Vancouver Island — from Cape Scott to Victoria, from Tofino to Campbell River — along with the Gulf Islands and parts of the Central Coast.
Interior Health covers the Thompson Cariboo Shuswap region, the Okanagan, the Kootenay Boundary region and the East Kootenay region.
Northern Health oversees the northern half of B.C.
The travel restriction will be in place until at least May 24, after the May long weekend.
The border between Canada and the U.S. remains closed to non-essential travel.
As for interprovincial travel, there will be signs up at the B.C.-Alberta border warning travellers only to enter B.C. for essential purposes. This could also be one of the checkpoints, as the government has said road checks may be at points-of-entry.
Speaking at a news conference on April 19, B.C. Premier John Horgan said regulations are being developed by the public safety minister that will restrict movement within the province.
“If we can’t do it without an order, we’re prepared to bring an order in… non-essential travel should be confined to local travel only,” Horgan said.
When it comes to British Columbians’ travel within the province, Horgan said that Farnworth will issue the orders on Friday (April 23) under B.C.’s Emergency Program Act.
“This will be conducted through random audits, not unlike roadside stops for a counterattack during the Christmas season. They will be susceptible to all travellers, not just a few travellers… there will be a fine if you are travelling outside of your area without a legitimate reason,” Horgan said.
“This is about travel. There will be no additional authority given to police. This will be a random audit to ensure people are following the guidelines.”
“This is not the time to load up the Winnebago and travel around British Columbia,” Horgan said.
On April 21, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, and Health Minister Adrian Dix issued a joint statement regarding updates on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Henry and Dix reported 862 new cases, for a total of 121,751 cases in B.C.
There are 8,906 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 13,135 people under public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases.
A further 111,039 people who tested positive have recovered.
Of the active cases, 483 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 164 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people with COVID-19 are recovering at home in self-isolation.
Henry and Dix also reported seven new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,546 deaths in B.C.
Also, 1,456,946 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-SII COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C., 88,335 of which are second doses.