The province doesn’t plan to enforce travel restrictions, said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, but that doesn’t mean orders to stay home shouldn’t be taken seriously.
That message came April 9, just before the Easter long weekend when officials were asked about enforcing orders to avoid non-essential travel.
“We have not taken that approach in British Columbia and we don’t intend to,” Henry said. “It’s much more about supporting people to do the right thing – telling them what the right thing is, making sure they have the means to do the right thing – and as we have seen repeatedly, people do follow our advice around that.”
On Good Friday, April 10, the 12:45 p.m. BC Ferry sailing from Tsawwassen to Duke Point sailed at full capacity, after the ferry corporation had repeatedly called for essential travel only. BC Ferries later clarified that with a 50 per cent drop in maximum passenger capacity, the numbers were still far lower than they would be on a typical long weekend.
Still, the busier ferry terminals prompted public outcry – more than 15,500 people signed a Change.org petition calling for strict travel restrictions on ferries, limiting the vessels to essential services and implementing “restricted access for residents who are trying to return home to their families.”
BC Ferries has taken a number of steps to reduce ferry traffic during the pandemic, including major service cuts and reduced routes. The ferry corporation posted to social media saying it is screening for COVID-19 but does not have the authority or direction to stop healthy travellers from boarding.
Good morning! We're signed on and here to remind you to stay home and not travel unless it is essential. If you absolutely must travel, please check our Travel Advisory here: https://t.co/uC4sOh3gP6 and tweet us @BCFerries with any questions. ^lm
— BC Ferries (@BCFerries) April 11, 2020
During a mid-day press conference on Saturday, Henry said she had been in contact with BC Ferries about the weekend numbers.
“They did confirm that they are only seeing a fraction of the traffic that they would normally on this weekend,” Henry said. “I am heartened that, I think most people are doing what we need to do. They are staying home and looking after their family. They’re taking care of their neighbours. They’re managing this challenging time staying close to home and staying a safe distance from others.”
Henry said she does not see a need for stepped-up enforcement or lockdowns but she did have a message for those still ignoring the government’s demands: “It’s not too late to join our cause and make sure you’re part of the solution as well,” she said.
“What happens this weekend is going to be reflected in what we see in the coming weeks and we do not want to see increasing numbers of cases, increasing challenges in our health care system.”
The province reported that as of Saturday, there were 482 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C. and three more deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 58.
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