VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – B.C. is finally bringing down the hammer on non-essential travel.
Premier John Horgan says on Friday, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth will issue orders under the Emergency Program Act, which will restrict people’s ability to leave their health authority without a legitimate reason.
“This will be conducted through random audits, not unlike roadside stops for a counter attack during the Christmas season,” Horgan said.
“There will be a fine if you are traveling outside of your area without a legitimate reason. We will be consulting with the BIPOC community to make sure that we bring forward these restrictions in a way that does not give anyone fear that there will be additional repercussions,” he added.
Horgan says “no additional authority” will be given to police.
“This will be a random audit to ensure people are following the guidelines,” he emphasized.
However, Horgan did not share what the penalties for non-essential travel might be.
BC Ferries will also no longer accept bookings for vehicles like campers and trailers.
“BC Ferries will also be contacting their passengers that have booked reservations to make sure that their travel is essential, and it’s not leisure travel,” Horgan said.
Horgan adds tourism operators are promising to cooperate by not booking guests from other provinces and B.C. park operators are cancelling campsite reservations.
“Anyone who’s booked a holiday outside of their health authority will be refunded any costs that were incurred, either through the reservation process or the booking,” he said.
However, the province did not announce any bans on travel into B.C. from Alberta.
“We’ll be putting new border signs along the Alberta border, reminding our travellers coming from outside the province that unless they’re coming for essential business, they should not be here. They should be back in their home communities,” Horgan said.
Restrictions in place at least until May 25
The random road checks, which will be introduce Friday, will remain in effect until at least the end of the May long weekend. That is the earliest B.C.’s “circuit breaker” restrictions could be changed.
“That’s a period of time where we expect to have 60 per cent of our adult population in B.C. protected with vaccine,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said. “[It’s also] a time when we hope … the measures that we put in place will mean that transmission and hospitalizations have come down.
“We have a list of what essential is,” Henry said of travel restrictions around B.C. “We’re working with public safety to define the areas that we’re talking about around travel, and those will become clearer in the next few days.”
Horgan says it is everyone’s responsibility to get through the third wave of this pandemic.
“We need to make a few more sacrifices by reducing our travel, reducing the number of people that we engage with, and getting the first available vaccine, when you’re called upon to have that opportunity,” Horgan said.
Expanded AstraZeneca vaccine eligibility
The eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine is being expanded to everyone aged 40 and up.
“It will be available in pharmacies for people aged 40 and above, at all the pharmacies across the province. In addition, we’re starting a targeted AstraZeneca only clinics for people 40 and above in specific high-risk communities,” Henry said.
The clinics will be set up in the following communities:
- Dawson Creek
- West Newton (Surrey)
- Whalley (Surrey)
- North Delta
- East Newton (Surrey)
- Panorama (Surrey)
- South Langley Township
- West Abbotsford
- North Surrey
- Port Coquitlam
- Kensington (Vancouver)
- Fleetwood (Surrey)
B.C. recorded 2,960 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend.
Eight people died, including a toddler. The child, who was under the age of two, had pre-existing health conditions that complicated their illness.
“It was a virus that caused her death,” Henry confirmed Monday. “This young child resided in the Fraser Health Region but we’re getting specialized care at the BC Children’s Hospital.”
There are 9,353 active cases, including 441 patients are in the hospital. Of those, 138 are in the ICU.