What you need to know about B.C.’s new travel restrictions

Travel restrictions announced earlier by B.C. Premier John Horgan were formalized under the provincial Emergency Program Act on Friday, April 23, becoming effective immediately.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the new orders are meant to limit non-essential travel and curb the spread of COVID-19.

The restriction will be in place at least until the end of the May 24 long weekend because, according to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, that’s when the province expects to have vaccinated 60 per cent of B.C.’s adult population. 

Where do the restrictions apply? 

The government has created three zones based roughly on health regions between which non-essential travel is prohibited:

  • The Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley (Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health areas).
  • Vancouver Island (Island Health).
  • Northern and Interior regions (Northern health and Interior Health).

For the purposes of the travel restrictions, a portion of the Vancouver Coastal Health region north of the Sunshine Coast, including Bella Coola, will be considered part of the combined Northern and Interior regions, as will the District of Hope and the Central Coast.

What kind of travel is limited?

Restrictions are mostly meant to target recreational travellers, according to Horgan and Farnworth.

B.C. residents cannot book accommodations or camping sites outside their zone. Operators will cancel any bookings that have already been made and B.C. Parks will refund anyone with a provincial camping site reservation outside of their zone.

BC Ferries has stopped accepting bookings for recreational vehicles such as campers and trailers. The ferry service is contacting passengers with existing reservations to ensure they are essential travellers. No extra sailings will be added this year for the May long weekend.

“This order is to ensure that people stop traversing large parts of the province,” Farnworth said. “Go hiking, go camping, but do it locally.”

In addition to no longer accepting bookings for recreational vehicles — such as campers and trailers — at the end of this week, BC Ferries will be contacting passengers who have already made reservations to ensure they are essential travellers. (Robb Douglas)

What is considered essential travel?

  • Attending school or work.
  • Transporting commercial goods.
  • Returning to a principal residence.
  • Accessing child care.
  • Using health care or assisting someone in obtaining health care.

Can I travel within my zone? 

Yes, you can travel within your zone although Horgan urged citizens to stay close to home for the next five weeks.

“We’re asking people to use their common sense,” said the premier. 

A B.C. RCMP traffic services officer demonstrates new COVID-19 safety protocols during the 2020 holiday campaign to deter impaired driving. 

Will there be roadside checks?

Yes. Farnworth said roadside checkpoints could be set up in places like Hope where three highways branch off to connect the Fraser Valley with the Interior, and at ferry terminals connecting the B.C. mainland and Vancouver Island.

He compared the monitoring of travellers to the province’s CounterAttack program, where police stop vehicles in an attempt to nab drunk drivers.

Are there penalties for not following the orders? 

Yes, individuals can receive a violation ticket of $575 for breaking the orders. Farnworth said new legislation is coming to give authorities greater power to collect the fines.

What about out-of-province travellers? 

The provincial government says it will be erecting new border signs along the B.C.-Alberta border, reminding people to stay within their own province if travel isn’t essential. At this point, there will be no checkpoints.

Horgan said he’s grateful that other provinces are encouraging their residents to stay home, adding that anyone trying to book accommodations from outside of B.C. over the next five weeks won’t be able to do so.

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