Current restrictions in place until May 25 and can be enforced by $575 fine
By Jessica Berget, Assistant Editor
Another point of confusion for people is the combining of health regions and the fact that essential travel between provinces is allowed without needing to quarantine—especially when flights throughout the province, country, and globe are still coming to YVR airport.
On April 23, the BC government under the provincial Emergency Program Act announced new travel restrictions to slow down the spread of COVID-19 cases effective immediately. Non-essential travel (meaning any travel for recreation or leisure purposes) is now restricted between three regional health zones within the province.
People are able to move freely and even encouraged to camp or hike within their own local health region but must stay within their local health region until at least the end of May—a date that Bonnie Henry says was chosen because it’s projected that 60 percent of the adult population will be vaccinated. “Go camping, go hiking, but do it locally,” said Solicitor General Mike Farnworth when he announced the new measures.
BC is split up into three zones: Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley region (which includes Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions), Vancouver Island (Island Health), and Northern and Interior Regions (Northern Health and Interior Health). There are some exceptions to this rule: things like work, school, child-care, funerals, and health care are considered essential reasons to travel.
The province is working with law enforcement to make additional measures to give police the proper authority to carry out road checks in-and-out of the health regions to ensure people are not travelling outside of their health zones. However, the National Police Federation said in a statement that they have “grave concerns” about the travel measures enforcement citing that it will put pressure on limited resources and put officers at risk of possibly contracting the virus. They also call on the province to detail clear directions on how exactly they’re supposed to stop people.
President of Vancouver Police Union and BC Police Association Ralph Kaiser says implementing these restrictions could be a challenge for police “I am hoping for clear direction because obviously this is going to be difficult if our members are going to be expected to act on this order, what implications that has for our members,” he said to News 1130.
Kaiser also says there are questions about the restriction’s legality and how lawyers say it’s a measure that can be challenged by people who get fined. “When we look at a random, arbitrary stop by police of a citizen, is that allowed? And the answer generally is no, unless it’s for a lawful purpose. And so, what is that lawful purpose? There’s clear decisions by way of the Supreme Court of Canada around us making those stops, specifically to prevent the carnage on our highways in this country around impaired driving, and I don’t think we’re at that level by way of a public health order giving us the authority to make that sort of stop.”
As of April 26, BC RCMP’s media officer says he is not aware of any fines being issued in the province over the weekend and adds that Mounties did not perform any random checks to enforce travel restrictions.
On the other side, an SFU researcher is arguing that travel restrictions don’t go far enough. Julianne Piper is working on the Pandemic and Borders Project which studies how border measures are used to limit spread of disease says the restrictions is like a “two steps forward one step back” approach. She argues that more populated areas of BC such as Metro Vancouver won’t see any change as the government is encouraging people to go outside, but not to travel between health regions, which is something that can be confusing for many people. Another point of confusion for people is the combining of health regions and the fact that essential travel between provinces is allowed without needing to quarantine—especially when flights throughout the province, country, and globe are still coming to YVR airport.
The new travel restrictions have confused some of the population as on April 24, after the province announced these new restrictions, BC’s 911 operators dealt with a great deal of calls of people asking about the new travel measures prompting them to release a reminder to only use the line for emergency situations.