Premier John Horgan announced extended and new travel restrictions today to help stop the spread of Covid-19 variants and ensure a safe and open summer. Horgan said the new restrictions were put in place to ensure that British Columbians stay within their own local areas and reduce non-essential travel.

As local tourism leaders await further details on an upcoming provincial order that would formally restrict non-essential travel, they say the move is a tough but necessary one that will hopefully preserve Fernie’s summer.

The provincial government says it will be erecting new border signs along the B.C.-Alberta border, reminding people to stay within their own province if travel isn’t essential. The roadside checkpoints will apply to all travellers, and Horgan likened it to the impaired driving checkpoints conducted during the Christmas season. Horgan said the authority for the checkpoints will come from the Emergency Program Act.

Horgan said he’s grateful that other provinces are encouraging their residents to stay home, adding that anyone trying to book accommodations from outside of B.C. over the next five weeks won’t be able to do so. “There will be a fine if you are travelling outside of your area without a legitimate reason,” Horgan said, although he did not provide details on how much the fine would be.

B.C. residents will not be able to book accommodations or a camping site outside of their local health authority. Initially this is being implemented on a voluntary basis in cooperation with BC’s tourism sector, but Horgan said he will introduce a government order if necessary. Operators will cancel any bookings that have already been made, he said.

It is technically permissible for Fernie residents to travel within the Interior Health region — but Horgan urged residents to stay close to home for the next five weeks. “We’re asking people to use their common sense,” the premier said, “Do not plan a holiday until after the May long weekend.”

“We’re not going to follow other provincial leads and bring forward proposals that can’t be enforced,” Horgan said. “It is not our objective to go into some sort of state where we are watching and monitoring everybody’s activity.”

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth will be issuing orders on Friday under the Emergency Program Act to restrict a person’s ability to leave their health-care authority. The order will be enforced through a roadside checkpoint program. The formal order for the restrictions will be put in place later this week, and they are in effect until Monday, May 24, the end of the May long weekend.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said May 24 was chosen because it’s when the province expects to have 60 per cent of its adult population protected with the COVID-19 vaccine.

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