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COVID travel restrictions remain through May long as B.C. hints at easing of rules

Last Updated May 21, 2021 at 10:52 am PDT

FILE - A sign reminds British Columbians to avoid all non-essential and recreational travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ryan Lidemark, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Police authorities across B.C. have said they are ramping up enforcement this long weekend

Circuit breaker restrictions in B.C. set to expire after the May long weekend

Dr. Bonnie Henry, premier urging people to continue following public health orders

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The light at the end of the pandemic tunnel has never felt closer ahead of the May long weekend, which could be the last one under tighter COVID-19 restrictions, if all goes to plan.

And while signs point to some public health orders potentially being eased in the coming days, British Columbians are being reminded that they are still in place.

Police authorities across the province have said they are ramping up enforcement this long weekend. That includes road checks along major highways between health zones, including between the Lower Mainland and the Interior.

“Over the past two weeks police have established rotating checks at four locations. While overall traffic volume has been less than normal levels, we did see an increase in traffic this past weekend,” said Superintendent Holly Turton with BC Highway Patrol on Wednesday.

“While the public has been supportive of our officers at the checks, we know that more people are typically on our roads and highways on long weekends. We would like all travelers to know that we will be increasing the number and duration of the road checks leading up to, and through this long weekend,” added Turton.

Road checks will remain at four locations:

  • Highway 1 in the Boston Bar area
  • Highway 3 in the Manning Park area
  • Highway 5 in the Old Toll Booth area
  • Highway 99 in the Lillooet area

If B.C. stays on track, ‘circuit breaker will be over’ soon, premier says

The province is suggesting some of those restrictions will be loosening up as soon as next week if B.C. stays on track and continues to bring its daily case count down.

The so-called circuit breaker, which includes a ban indoor dining, and restrictions on travel between certain health zones are set to expire after the long weekend.

So far, B.C.’s health officials have resisted the urge to say whether it’ll be extended, suggesting there will be a plan laid out and things will reopen slowly.

But when asked what exactly people can expect on Tuesday, Premier John Horgan said, “They can expect on Tuesday that the circuit breaker will be over and a road map will be laid out for all British Columbians to see.”

That has some questioning whether people will be inclined to follow the rules this long weekend. However, he and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry urged British Columbians to continue doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“I want to remind everybody though that our public health and travel restrictions are still in place until end of this long weekend,” she said.

Henry also emphasized that restrictions will be lifted “slowly, but surely,” adding the end of the long weekend will not mean a return to pre-COVID times.

“Nothing is going to be back to 100 per cent on Tuesday. It’s not going to be a light switch. It’s going to be a dimmer switch,” she said.

BC Ferries not scheduling additional sailings

Meanwhile, those thinking about a getaway via BC Ferries are also being reminded to avoid non-essential trips.

“We’re just reminding customers that the travel restrictions order remains in effect, especially this long weekend — it’s typically or historically a popular travel time,” Tessa Humphries with BC Ferries said. “And so travel is limited to essential reasons only, and we’re also not scheduling any additional sailings for this long weekend.”

The travel restrictions came into effect on April 23. Humphries says BC Ferries is doing everything it can to support the province in limiting travel to essential reasons only.

“It is important for customers to note, particularly as defined in the order, for those routes that cross the regional zones, we are denying travel to customers who are travelling for non-essential reasons on those routes,” she added.

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BC Ferries is also not allowing camper vans and trailers to board vessels if they are on routes that cross health zones. The company is reminding customers to check the province’s list of essential reasons for travel if they are planning a trip this long weekend.

Humphries says ticket booth agents will be asking customers if they are travelling for essential reasons.

“It is on the customer to answer honestly, to be honest, and if it’s determined that they are not travelling for essential reasons, we will deny them travel for that particular route,” she said.

-With files from Denise Wong