B.C. cracks down on travellers to help curb COVID

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The Province of British Columbia is stepping up efforts to end non-essential travel as the five weeks leading to the end of the May long weekend are expected to be critical for besting the coronavirus pandemic.

During a press conference on Monday afternoon, Premier John Horgan announced that  BC Ferries travel will be limited to legitimate needs and accommodations bookings will be restricted to people living in the same health authority. Police have been given new, limited enforcement authority to conduct highway checks in some areas and to issue fines. 

“Circuit-breaker” restrictions initially introduced for three weeks on March 29 will be extended through to the end of the Victoria Day long weekend, which this year falls on May 24.

“This is done with a heavy heart but it’s done with resolute purpose,” Horgan said.

Additional methods to restrict unnecessary travel mean BC Ferries will not be permitted to take reservations for recreational vehicles, campers or trailers starting this Friday. The company will also not be adding extra ferry sailings for the long weekend. People are asked to stay within their own communities as much as possible.

The premier said following the rules would be necessary to “save a summer we all desperately need.” 

“Our appeal to people is to do the right thing and stay home. Do not plan a holiday until after the long weekend,” Horgan said.

As well, new signs discouraging non-essential travel will be installed on the border with Alberta. The province is working with the accommodations sector and also with BIPOC representatives to ensure travel checks don’t target vulnerable people unfairly. 

Horgan said programs introduced to help businesses impacted by the circuit breakers will also be extended. 

B.C.’s immunization program is meanwhile in full swing, with the initial registration process available to all adults this week. Registration opens for people aged 30 and up today (Wednesday, April 21) and will be open to everyone aged 18 and older by Friday. 

According to the province, the fastest way to register is online at www2.gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated.html. Registration can also take place through a provincial call centre between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. at 1-833-838-2323 or in person at Service BC locations. 

People will need their personal health number, their postal code, first and last name, date of birth and an email address that gets checked regularly or a phone number that can receive text messages.

Registration is the first step. Once registered, people will be contacted when it is their turn to book a vaccine appointment. 

B.C.’s age-based program runs parallel to a pharmacy program. Now, anyone over the age of 40 is eligible to be vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine in local pharmacies throughout the province.

New rules announced Monday mean employers must pay their workers for time off if needed for their vaccination appointment. 

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