Last week the B.C. government announced a non-essential travel ban within the province to curb the rapidly rising spread of COVID-19 especially in the lower mainland, and from there to other parts of the province.
The non-essential travel ban will be enforced by restricting movement of residents from one health region to another within the province, until May 25. The health regions are based on the five regional health authorities with the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions considered as one, and Northern Health and Interior Health regions also treated as a single region.
What this means for Smithers residents is that they will be allowed to travel only in the Northern Health and Interior Health regions but not in the Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health or Vancouver Island health regions.
Northern Health region extends from Haida Gwaii to Telegraph Creek on the northwest, from Quesnel to Prince George in the Northern Interior and Peace River South to Fort Nelson on the Northeast while the Interior Health region extends from Fernie to Golden in East Kootenay, Kootenay Lake to Kettle Valley on the Kootenay Boundary, Southern Okanagan to Enderby in Okanagan and Revelstoke to Merritt in the Thompson Cariboo Shuswap regions.
The province provided a list of exemptions to the non-essential travel order, including employment or volunteer work, returning to a principle residence, moving or assisting someone moving, spending parenting time with a minor child, attending school or a funeral, or providing care to someone with a physical or mental health condition.
“If we act now and do the right thing, we can still have a summer like those we are all used to,” Farnworth said.
Farnworth and Premier John Horgan had said that enforcement of non-essential travel between regions was a step taken reluctantly, first revealed by Horgan on Monday last week. Horgan said police road checks would be used to “audit” compliance with the new rules.
To ensure enforcement, major highways and ferry crossings will have checkpoints and violators will be fined $575 tickets.
Currently, there already are other fines in place for the pandemic restrictions-related violations. Masks are still required in public indoor settings and those violating the mask mandate could receive a $230 violation ticket. The violation tickets are also being given out for those not complying with the restrictions around gathering, organizing events, retail businesses or markets.
According to statistics provided by the RCMP, 585 fines had already been issued from Jan. 8 to April 8 this year, all across the province. Of these, the northern region has seen 84 fines issued, 33 of those related to face coverings.
– with files from Tom Fletcher