B.C. will introduce sweeping new travel restrictions designed to make sure British Columbians are staying within their health authorities, the government announced Monday, and will also extend “circuit-breaker” public health measures for another five weeks.
B.C. Premier John Horgan said that on Friday, Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth would introduce an order under the Emergency Program Act to restrict people’s ability to leave their health authority.
This will be achieved through random audits like roadside stops, with Horgan reiterating that non-essential travel should be confined to local health regions only.
Horgan said the order would not give additional powers to police, and the government would communicate with the BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Colour) community to bring the restrictions forward in a way that would not cause fear.
BC Ferries will also stop accepting bookings for recreational vehicles like campers and trailers through the May long weekend, Horgan said.
“BC Ferries will also be contacting their passengers that have booked reservations to make sure that their travel is essential,” he said.
No additional ferries will be added for sailings during the long weekend in May in an effort to limit travel on/off of Van. Isle
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There will also be no ferries added to the historically busy May long weekend in an effort to curb people from non-essential travel to and from Vancouver Island.
“I want to thank BC Ferries for stepping up to make sure that we can use this piece of transportation to restrict travel into Vancouver Island and off of Vancouver Island,” Horgan said.
New signs will also be set up along the Alberta-B.C. border reminding travellers coming from outside of the province that they shouldn’t enter unless it is for essential business.
The travel-related health orders will remain in place for at least five weeks.
“This is done with a heavy heart, but it’s done with a resolute purpose that together, for this next five weeks, we can get to the end,” said Horgan of the latest restrictions.
The extended “circuit-breaker” measures mean that B.C. will continue to restrict indoor dining, indoor group fitness classes and indoor in-person worship services through the end of the May long weekend.
“This final stretch of the pandemic will be the most challenging of the many, many months we’ve been working together,” said Horgan.
A presentation from the government Monday showed the number of daily cases beginning to curve back down toward the 1,000-cases-per-day mark on a seven-day rolling average.
Health officials said it’s a sign the circuit breaker measures announced at the end of March are beginning to work — especially considering case numbers can lag two weeks behind actual infections.
In the same presentation, officials expressed concern over the rising number of hospitalizations putting strain on the province’s base and surgery beds, though they vary depending on health authority.
Some health authorities, like Vancouver Coastal, have seen 100 per cent of their base beds in critical care occupied, while in Island Health, only 56.2 per cent of base ICU beds are occupied, the lowest out of all authorities.
On Monday, Henry also announced an expansion of the AstraZeneca vaccine age cohort, with those 40 and up now qualifying to receive a shot at select B.C. pharmacies.