Recreational travel in and out of Lower Mainland banned, enforced

Travel restrictions take effect

UPDATE: 10:15 a.m.

Effective immediately, people living in the Lower Mainland will no longer be permitted to drive to the Interior for recreational activities, and those breaking the rules could face a $575 fine.

But no enforcement efforts will be put in place to restrict travellers coming west from Alberta.

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced Friday morning that travel between the Interior and Northern health authorities and the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health authorities will not be enforced, but it remains strongly discouraged.

Farnworth said the new measures will see police roadside checks on highways outside of Hope, where officers will determine if travellers leaving or entering the Lower Mainland are doing so for "essential purposes." A list of essential travel reasons can be found here.

"It is not arbitrary or random, and it's not roadblocks. What it is is periodic road checks, similar to what you see with the Counter Attack program at strategic points at the borders between health authorities ... It would be Highway 1, just before it turns into the Canyon route, the Coquihalla, or the Hope-Princeton."

But while Farnworth was expected to provide details Friday on how these road checks will work, he said further information will come next week.

"I want to make sure that it's done right, I want to make sure that we address the concerns that people have," Farnworth said. "I want us to avoid the situation, for example, that happened in Ontario. We are working with police very closely and ensuring that what comes out is right."

Additionally, Farnworth said BC Ferries will be restricting non-essential bookings in and out of the Lower Mainland and reducing the number of daily sailings. He also noted the province has been working with the tourism industry to encourage hotels to not book out of town travellers.

But while the Atlantic provinces have been able to restrict out of province travellers for months, with their "Atlantic bubble" approach, Farnworth said they will not be enforcing any restrictions on Albertan travellers vacationing in the Interior.

"The situation in British Columbian is, I would argue, significantly different than that of Atlantic Canada – the size, the geography of our province," Farnworth said. "There will be signs and signage at the Alberta border discouraging people from non-essential travel.

"We are working with the tourism association to encourage tourism operators, for example in the Okanagan, to not accept out-of-area, out-of-province bookings and to cancel bookings that have already been made, and we've been very pleased with the response."

The new travel restrictions will be in place until at least May 25. Farnworth said more than 60 per cent of eligible British Columbians should be vaccinated for COVID-19 by then, and the province's rising hospitalizations will hopefully have decreased in a month's time.

ORIGINAL: 9:15 a.m.

Friday morning, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth is expected to provide details about British Columbia's new travel restrictions, to slow the transmission of COVID-19.

Earlier this week, Premier John Horgan said British Columbians will be restricted to their own health authorities, and periodic check stops will be set up on the Coquihalla and Highway 3, leaving the Lower Mainland.

The new measures come as COVID-19 hospitalizations have reached unprecedented levels in the province, forcing the postponement of non-urgent surgeries in some Lower Mainland hospitals.

Farnworth will provide the details on how the new restrictions will work during a 9:30 a.m. press conference.

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