As COVID-19 case counts remain high in BC, health officials continue to cite travel within the province as a major source of transmission.
As a result, many are wondering if the province can do more than just put in advisories and restrictions, and implement an outright ban or actually prohibit people from travelling during this time.
“We can’t stop people from moving around,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix during a media availability this week.
As it turns out, they currently and technically can, although people shouldn’t expect to see such a prohibition or ban – beyond the restrictions already in place.
Over a year ago now, BC declared, for the first time, a provincial state of emergency, which has been continuously in effect since then.
And under the Emergency Program Act, during a state of emergency, the safety minister (in this case, Minister Mike Farnworth) has the power to “control or prohibit travel to or from any area of British Columbia.”
However, according to Emergency Management BC (EMBC) deciding to go this route, as direct as it may seem, simply isn’t as desirable as some would like to believe.
On Wednesday, EMBC told Daily Hive that while the minister does have this power at his disposal, “each order under the Act has costs and consequences, and those consequences must be taken into consideration.”
And in choosing what route to take, EMBC said the responsibility remains “to balance the need to keep British Columbians safe and healthy with the impacts to our economy and freedom of movement.”
And in this particular case, “the guidance we’ve received from the Provincial Health Officer and legal and enforcement experts is that an outright travel ban is not recommended.”
EMBC reiterated however, that “this is not the time to travel for non-essential reasons.”
Earlier this year, the BC government also said that it would not restrict non-essential travel to the province.
Noting his government had consulted with legal experts on the issue, BC Premier John Horgan said such a move wouldn’t be feasible, and that the province had no authority to do so anyway.
“The review of our legal options made it clear we can’t prevent people from travelling to British Columbia,” Horgan said at the time.
Still, at a press conference this week, Provincial Health Officer reminded people that “unnecessary travel and social gatherings are fuelling the fire for variant of concern transmission — and we all have the ability to slow that down.”