The B.C. government has moved ahead with new public health orders to contain the spread of COVID-19 between regions, with enforcement at major highway and ferry crossings aimed at preventing non-essential travel between the Lower Mainland and other parts of the province.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Friday morning the orders take effect immediately, and are in effect until May 25. They are based on B.C.’s five regional health authorities, with the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions considered as one, and Northern Health and Interior Health regions also treated as a single region.
Farnworth said fines of $575 can be imposed under the Emergency Program Act and he is working with police services to provide periodic road checks at the borders between regions. Ferry terminals and highway routes through Hope to the Interior take most traffic between the three regions. and fines would be assessed at the discretion of police. he said.
The province provided a list of exemptions to the non-essential travel order, including employment or volunteer work, returning to a principal residence, moving or assisting someone moving, spending parenting time with a minor child, attending school or a funeral, or providing care to someone with a physical or mental health condition.
“If we act now and do the right thing, we can still have a summer like those we are all used to,” Farnworth said April 23.
Farnworth and Premier John Horgan have said that enforcement of non-essential travel between regions was a step taken reluctantly, first revealed by Horgan on Monday. Horgan said police road checks would be used to “audit” compliance with the new rules.
“He would rather not have to take this step, but the virus and the variants are spreading through this province, and travel is one of the ways in which they are transmitted,” Farnworth told reporters April 22. “And one of the most effective ways to deal with that is to bring in travel restrictions, and the provincial health officer has indicated that between health authorities is the most effective way to do that.”