A lack of inter-provincial travel restrictions in BC is exhausting

BC needs stronger inter-provincial travel restrictions to follow other provinces’ simple mandates

PHOTO: BC NDP / Flickr

by Marisa Rizzo, SFU Student

Since the initial COVID-19 shutdown, the federal government has encouraged us not to engage in non-essential travel outside of Canada, and to limit travel between provinces. However, in BC, recent reports from Whistler show that many of their guests are visiting from both Ontario and Quebec. Because BC’s inter-provincial travel restrictions are so inconsistent with a good portion of Canada, mere suggestions of staying put are not enough to sway everybody. BC needs to make these more uniform with the rest of Canada to strengthen the fight against COVID-19.

Many other provinces have strict inter-provincial travel restrictions. Manitoba recently updated the province’s Public Health Act to mandate self-isolation for 14 days after arriving from another Canadian province or territory. Maritime provinces such as Nova Scotia make it clear that staying isolated for 14 days is necessary to curb further spreading. Even the Northwest Territories has put a self-isolation plan into effect for travellers to monitor potential symptoms.

However, in BC, Premier John Horgan recently stated that they are not implementing an inter-provincial travel ban because it is not in their “legal options.” He appears to be unperturbed by the notion of people travelling to the province and believes that his simple advice for them to not do so is being taken into consideration. If many of the other provinces in the country have been able to implement some form of restriction, then why can’t BC do the same? The province shouldn’t wait for numbers to rise exponentially to implement stricter measures.

One survey done by Research Co. said that 80% of Canadians would like to have an inter-provincial travel ban in place. The desire to have greater travel restrictions is certainly present across the country, yet Canadian citizens from other provinces and territories can still easily fly into BC and roam around.

People who travel essentially for work and important jobs have a valid reason to move around; it is the vacation goers that my concern lies with. Many of us in BC have been hunkered down for months, making it frustrating to see others engage in non-essential travel. Of course, I would love to go on vacation, but now is not the time for a trip — especially since I help my grandmother who is over 90-years-old (and is still not vaccinated). I feel defeated and alone. If BC were to sanction mandatory isolation for inter-provincial travel, it would demonstrate how the province is willing to take precautions more seriously, and would ease this common frustration. 

With new variants of COVID-19 entering the province, we need to implement new restrictions as soon as possible. All it would take is one person to come in with the variant to potentially skyrocket both the case and hospital numbers. More travel negligence, more super-spreader potential, more cases. It is not difficult to comprehend, but it is unfortunately easy to ignore.

Vaccines have begun to rollout, but we are just getting started with any kind of progression to normalcy. Aligning with other provinces’ 14-day quarantine restrictions would bring more certainty to the notion that the virus will not spread. BC already has these kinds of restrictions with international travel, and even implemented a new rule requiring international travellers to stay in a government-approved hotel. If inter-provincial travel restrictions were given as much attention, then maybe the country could finally be cohesive in its travelling rules.