B.C. government splitting province up into three zone to enforce COVID travel restrictions

The provincial government is splitting B.C. up into three regional zones in order to enforce new travel restrictions now in place.

The B.C. government has issued a new order using the Emergency Program Act to prohibit non-essential travel between Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley (Fraser Health and Coastal Health regions), Vancouver Island (Island Health region) and Northern/Interior (Interior Health and Northern Health regions).

The province says police will not engage in random checks, and enforcement measures will be informed by discussions with stakeholders on limiting the impacts to racialized communities.

The road checks will be set up near ferry terminals and on highway corridors that connect different regions of the province

If the police deem compliance measures are necessary, fines can be issued. At the discretion of police, a contravention of this Emergency Program Act travel order may be subject to a $575 fine.

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The government notes the new laws only prohibit travel between zones.

Read more: What is essential travel in B.C. under the new COVID-19 travel restrictions?

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Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is still advising people to stay within their own local community and only leave for essential travel.

“The new variant strains are infecting more people and resulting in record levels of hospitalizations that place a growing strain on the front-line health workers who have been here for us throughout this pandemic. To help protect them and our communities, we must do more to discourage travel and begin to enforce restrictions on non-essential travel,” Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Friday.

“While this new legal order targets those who are travelling across regional zones for recreational purposes, the advice from Dr. Henry to stay local remains in place everywhere in B.C. Do not go to Whistler or Tofino even on a day trip. Everyone should stay close to home.”

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The order will be in effect from April 23 to May 25.

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It applies to everyone in the province, including non-essential travellers from outside the province.

There are exemptions including attending school or work, the commercial transportation of goods, returning to a principal residence, accessing child care, obtaining health care or assisting someone to receive health care, and the commercial transportation of goods.

The province cannot enforce travel across provincial borders but will be working with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on highway signage and increasing signage along the border with Alberta.

“Community transmission and COVID-19 cases, including variants of concern, have increased in our health authorities, with many cases being linked to non-essential travel within B.C.,” Henry said.

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“I am calling on everyone to stay in their local communities and support these travel restrictions to stop the most dangerous travel across regional zones to control the spread of COVID-19 and support our front-line healthcare workers.”

The government is still working with BC Ferries to restrict non-essential vehicle passage, deter non-essential bookings and limit sailings.

The province’s tourism and accommodation industry are encouraging all operators/businesses to support the order by declining new bookings from outside their regional zones and cancelling existing bookings from outside their regional zones.

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More to come.

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