Lower Mainland to be treated as one health authority region under B.C.'s travel restriction
VANCOUVER -- The Lower Mainland will be treated as one health authority region under B.C.'s pending COVID-19 travel restriction, according to Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.
The province is planning to implement the controversial new measure on Friday, prohibiting people from moving between health authorities for non-essential purposes.
There were concerns the ban would restrict movement between Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley – and even neighbouring cities like Vancouver, which is part of the Vancouver Coastal Health region, and Burnaby, which is part of the Fraser Health region.
On Wednesday, Farnworth confirmed that won't be the case.
"Vancouver Coastal and the Fraser Health authority will be treated as one health authority," the minister said.
The government has said it plans to enforce the rules through roadblocks like the ones used to catch drunk drivers, but Farnworth stressed that people shouldn't expect to see them randomly placed in cities such as Vancouver or Surrey.
"You're likely to see something at the ferries, for example, or the other obviously location is when you head into the Interior, just before Hope," Farnworth said. "You will not be seeing anything (on) Boundary Road."
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix have urged people to stay close to home until the province's COVID-19 caseload is under control, even going so far as to suggest sticking to one's own neighbourhood.
But up until now, B.C. has only issued guidelines for intraprovincial travel.
The decision to enact an actual restriction has raised concerns among some civil liberties organizations, and even the National Police Federation, which has spoken out against the pending travel ban.
The NPF met with Farnworth on Wednesday and expressed "disappointment and grave concerns" about the police being asked to enforce the measure, federation president Brian Sauve said in a statement.
"he National Police Federation has been hearing loud and clear from a growing number of RCMP members asking us to oppose this proposed order," Sauve said. "In addition to shouldering an already heavy and increasing workload, participating in enforcement 'roadblocks' puts even greater pressure on limited resources and puts our members at further risk of exposure and possible infection."
The government has not revealed what will constitute essential versus non-essential travel under the ban, but is expected to provide more details on Friday.