The new travel orders aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 in British Columbia appear to have worked with most people.
Last Friday, Solicitor General and Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth introduced new restrictions prohibiting B.C. residents from travelling between health authorities for non-essential reasons. The rules are in place until the end of the May long weekend (May 25).
"I'm taking further action to carry us through the current spike of COVID-19 cases until more of the population can be vaccinated,” Farnworth said at the April 23 press conference.
If someone is contravening the new order, they will be fined $575.
"We've all made great sacrifices to protect our collective health and to keep our health-care system functioning safely. While I'm disappointed, additional measures are necessary," said Farnworth.
As part of the new travel restrictions, BC Ferries is restricting non-essential vehicle passage, deterring non-essential bookings and is limiting sailings. Ticket staff members are asking customers about whether their travel is essential and accepting their word.
Deborah Marshall, a spokesperson for BC Ferries, says this past weekend was smooth sailing without incidents.
She tells Glacier Media some people were turned around for not following the rules.
“There were a handful of customers denied travel on the six routes that cross the regional zones as per the provincial order,” she says, adding police did not need to be called and the individuals were not trying to be rule-breakers.
“It was more a matter of a few people not being fully aware of the order.”
According to Farnworth, the new restrictions are being brought in using the extraordinary powers of the Emergency Program Act, and that the province is working “very closely” with the RCMP to establish enforcement to allow officers to issue fines.
BC RCMP’s media officer says as of Monday morning, he is not aware of any $575 fines being issued over the last 72 hours anywhere in the province.
“Complaints of violations will be followed up on, based on the availability of police officers and priorities at the time, and based on investigation, fines may be issued,” says Cpl. Chris Manseau.
Manseau adds Mounties across the province did not conduct any random checks or stops to conduct travel restriction enforcement related to the new order.
Under the advice of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, there are three regional zones people are asked to stay in: the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, and the Northern/Interior region.
Passenger numbers on BC Ferries were also down significantly.
“Our traffic was already down significantly, so these further reductions indicate British Columbians are avoiding non-essential travel,” says Marshall.
The Tsawwassen-to-Swartz Bay route was down 34 per cent in passengers and 24 per cent in vehicles compared to last weekend. The Horseshoe Bay-to-Departure Bay route was down 42 per cent in passengers, 37 per cent in vehicles.
A busy commercial route (essential travel) from Tsawwassen to Duke Point was down 17 per cent in passenger and seven per cent in vehicle traffic, compared to last week.
All of the routes were down at least 60 per cent in vehicle traffic compared to 2019.
The province also claimed they would be working with police to establish periodic road checks at key travel corridors during times associated with leisure travel to remind people of the new order.
—with files from Times Colonist