B.C. not closing Alberta border, but officials urge people not to cross
VANCOUVER -- Health officials are appealing to B.C. and Alberta residents to stay home this holiday weekend, but the government has no plans to shut down the border between the provinces.
Speaking at their daily COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stressed that anyone who embarks on non-essential travel during the crisis could inadvertently cause an outbreak.
"This is not the time for people from British Columbia to visit Alberta," Dix said. "It's not the time for people from Alberta to visit British Columbia."
Officials said the same is true for people travelling within their own province, including those who are hoping to visit a vacation home. That's especially true in towns and villages that might not have robust health care resources to handle a local outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
"It's not the time to go to some of our smaller or more remote communities," Henry said. "We need to make sure that we consider the impact that such a misstep could have on everything that we have done."
Health officials have also urged people who are planning to observe the various upcoming religious holidays, including Passover, Easter, Ramadan and Vaisakhi, to do so remotely. Meeting in groups could threaten to upend the fragile progress B.C. has made in flattening its infection curve, officials warn.
"This will be a long weekend like we have never experienced," Dix said. "Its religious and family significance is as strong as ever but we must find other ways to make it memorable, restorative and affirming. Find the virtue in virtual and telephone connections, find togetherness without gathering, find comfort in your own home with your family."
There has been nervousness among some in the eastern part of B.C. about people continuing to travel across provincial lines during the crisis. Earlier this week, the East Kootenay Regional District called on the government to temporarily close the border, which would normally be buzzing over the long weekend with people visiting family and heading out on backcountry excursions.
Thousands of Albertans flock to small communities like Kimberley, Fernie and Sparwood to camp, ski and hike, and local officials say their hospitals have limited resources to deal with any COVID-19 infections that could spring up as a result.
"We want to limit travel," district board chair Rob Gay told CTV News on Tuesday. "It's going to hurt small businesses throughout our area and we know that."
Officials said they don't believe a border closure is necessary, noting the provinces are at similar stages in their fight against the virus and that residents on both sides have already been asked to stay home and follow public health advice.
B.C. has had 1,336 confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far, compared to Alberta's 1,423. There are currently only 450 active cases in B.C., however, which is roughly half of the 875 patients fighting off the virus on the other side of the border.