Can you travel from Victoria to Ucluelet under new restrictions? Yes, but premier says stick to your community

WatchVancouver Islanders will still legally be allowed to travel across the Island under new restrictions, as the area all falls under the same health authority. But, as Jasmine Bala reports, the premier says we shouldn't travel outside of our communities. Jasmine Bala reports.

Under new travel restrictions announced this week, British Columbians will not be allowed to leave their health authority unless it’s for an essential reason.

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth will be introducing an order under the Emergency Program Act to limit people’s ability to leave their health authority on Friday, according to the premier.

All of Vancouver Island falls under one health authority: Island Health. This means, for example, people from Victoria can still legally visit Ucluelet.

“There’s a lot of people in Nanaimo, Victoria, Campbell River, that come to the west coast,” said Mayco Noël, mayor of Ucluelet. “From the onset, it would appear that that’s still going to be permitted.”

Although you may technically be allowed to travel up and down the island, B.C.’s premier is asking people not to.

“Do not go too far from your own backyard. Stay in your community. Stay in your neighbourhood,” said Premier John Horgan on Monday. “[In] the Island Health authority, for example, we’re asking people to use their common sense. We’re asking them.”

Essential travel is defined by the province as regular travel for work within the region or medical appointments and hospital visits. Non-essential travel includes recreation, such as vacations or visiting friends and family outside of your household or, if you live alone, your core bubble.

“Individual circumstances may affect whether a trip is considered essential or non-essential,” the province’s website reads.

READ MORE: B.C. to introduce orders to curb provincial travel; ‘circuit-breaker’ measures extended 5 weeks

Horgan said new measures aimed at restricting travel outside of one’s health authority will include roadside check points and BC Ferries will stop accepting bookings for recreational vehicles through the May long weekend.

BC Ferries will also be contacting those with reservations to make sure their travel is essential, he said. And the province is requesting tourism operators do the same.

“We’ve been working with representatives from the tourism industry to reduce — in fact, to eliminate — bookings from people outside of a particular area,” Horgan said. “Do not try to book somewhere outside of your area because the tourism operator in that area will not book you passage.”

“If we can’t do it without an order, we’re prepared to bring an order in,” he added.

But many tourism operators, including the Magnolia Hotel and Spa in Victoria, are willing to pitch in with hopes this is the step needed to get things in order for a successful summer season.

“The message is clear that we want to be discouraging inter-regional travel as much as possible,” said Bill Lewis, general manager of the hotel and chair of the Greater Victoria Hotel Association. “And I think the hotel community wants to get through this and we’re here to support the cause as much as we can.”

Since the announcement was made yesterday, Lewis says the hotel has already had several dozen people calling in to cancel reservations for the next five weeks.

“It’s been a pretty steady stream of people that need to change their travel plans,” Lewis said.

The hotel, however, is waiting for clearer direction from the province on Friday before they begin reaching out to guests from outside of Island Health, Lewis added.

According to Tourism Vancouver Island, tourism operators across the island are feeling the same way, hoping for more clarity.

“I think between my team and I, we must have several hundred emails that we’re attempting to answer today based on what occurred yesterday,” said Anthony Everett, president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver Island.

Questions from tourism operators about what a health region is, what essential reasons are, and how the voluntary measure works.

“We’ve spoken to government about definitions, so I would call what we’re talking about here definitions,” Everett said. “So tell us exactly what we can and cannot do right now.”

The restrictions that will be put into place on Friday are expected to last until May 25 at midnight, the end of the May long weekend.

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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