Friday, April 23, 2021

John Horgan's Rules for Hitting the road ... Version 2: Just Don't do it

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth was tasked to remove some of the confusion of the last four days related to Premier Horgan's announcement of Monday of travel restrictions, a job that seems to have seen the travel edict evolve somewhat, but still leave a range of unfinished elements to keep British Columbians guessing.

In a short announcement and availability session this morning, Mr. Farnworth relayed  the latest update to the Stay in your Home Zone plans. 

Speaking to the media by a remote hook up, the Public Safety Minister repeated many of the warnings over increased COVID cases in recent weeks, noting how things may get worse before they get better and how the province needs to get through the next few weeks and hunker down and stay low.

With a hope for a summer that we are accustomed to the next weeks in the lead up and past the May Long Weekend the Minister announced that travel outside of our immediate Health Authority is now a legal order under the provincial emergencies act.

On the advice of Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer (PHO), Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, has issued a new order using the extraordinary powers of the Emergency Program Act to prohibit non-essential travel between three regional zones in the province, using health authority boundaries. 

The regional zones are: Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley (Fraser Health and Coastal Health regions); Vancouver Island (Island Health region); and Northern/Interior (Interior Health and Northern Health regions). 

While the order puts legal limits only on travel between regional zones, the PHO’s guidance remains unchanged throughout B.C.: everyone should continue to stay within their local community – essential travel only.

As for enforcement the approach the province the province is no longer referring to the plan as a travel audit, instead taking the approach that it will be more like the Counterattack program we see at Christmas time, with fines for travel outside of your area now marked at 575 dollars.

Ferry travel will be impacted as well, with BC Ferries announcing that passage will be allowed between the different zones  only for essential travellers.

The  order will be in effect from April 23 through May 25, 2021, (after the May long weekend). It applies to everyone in the province, including non-essential travellers from outside the province.

“The new variant strains are infecting more people and resulting in record levels of hospitalizations that place a growing strain on the front-line health workers who have been here for us throughout this pandemic. To help protect them and our communities, we must do more to discourage travel and begin to enforce restrictions on non-essential travel. 

While this new legal order targets those who are travelling across regional zones for recreational purposes, the advice from Dr. Henry to stay local remains in place everywhere in B.C. Do not go to Whistler or Tofino – even on a day trip. Everyone should stay close to home.” -- Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth outlining new travel restrictions in BC

The exemptions to the order are as follows:

More on today's announcement and the order in place can be reviewed here.

With any number of different exemptions available, concerns for tourism operators and yet more details to come some time next week; the orders do seem to have sewn some seeds for confusion, something reflected by the number of questions directed to the Minister in his media availability.

Further background on travel during COVID can be reviewed here,

More notes out of Victoria can be found from our archive page.

The provincial coverage coming from today's announcement can be reviewed later this evening, from our political blog D'Arcy McGee.

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