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BC will begin conducting roadside checks to prevent travel around province

BC health officials have announced several new public health orders aimed at restricting travel across the province.

As of Friday, RCMP will be conducting random roadside checks to make sure people are not traveling outside of their health authorities.

Those found outside of their health region will be subject to a fine.

Essential travel will be permitted, however, details as to what constitutes essential travel have yet to be released.

Premier John Horgan did say that the checks will be random and that police won't be set up on health authority borders checking people.

Officials are also working with tourism operators to make sure no bookings are being made from travellers outside of their local area.

BC Ferries will be calling anyone with reservations to make sure their travel is essential.

Campers and trailers will also be prohibited from boarding ferries.

The BC government will be putting signs along the Alberta border asking motorists not to travel unless it's for essential reasons.

Current provincial bans on indoor dining, social gatherings of more than 10 people and group fitness activities for adults were also extended on Monday.

The current public health orders will now continue until May 24 at midnight.

“If you live in the Fraser Health area, by all means take a few days, get outside, perhaps go to a campground in your local area. But do not try and book somewhere outside of your area. The tourism operator in that community will not book you,” Horgan said.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth is expected to announce details Friday.

Horgan said travel restrictions involving police will not be like those that were walked back in Ontario last week that could have seen pedestrians and motorists stopped during lockdowns and asked where they live.

“We’re not going to follow other provincial leads and bring forward proposals that can’t be enforced or, quite frankly, reduce confidence in our objective here, which is to collectively say let’s redouble our efforts, let’s bear down for the next five weeks so that we can have the summer that all of us desperately, desperately want.”

However, the province is prepared to bring in a public health order banning all non-essential travel if people do not voluntarily follow the restrictions to reduce the burden on overwhelmed hospital staff, Horgan said.

“Most importantly, I want people to think about those nurses and those care aides and those doctors and all of the people on our front lines who have been giving every single week, every single month, for over a year to keep British Columbians safe. We cannot thank them enough.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said a child under age two was among the eight people who died of COVID-19 since Friday, for a total of 1,538 deaths from the virus.

<who> Photo credit: Canadian Press

“It is a true tragedy and it’s a reflection of the impact this virus is having across our community,” she said of the child who had some pre-existing issues and died at BC Children’s Hospital.

Another 2,960 people tested positive for the virus in the last three days, bringing the total number of cases in BC to 120,040.

Henry said some restaurants and bars have pushed the limit by seating large numbers of people on patios and some gyms have also not been following restrictions during a three-week period that she extended until after the long weekend in May.

While people have been encouraged to gather outdoors in groups of up to 10 in their bubble, it’s concerning that some have skirted those guidelines, she said.

BC will join Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba in providing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 40 and up, instead of starting at age 55, Henry said.

“It’s now become clear that the risk of very rare blood clots associated with vaccination (with AstraZeneca) is in the range of about four in a million,” Henry said. “We need to put that in the context of what we are seeing across our province right now where COVID transmission rates are very high in many communities and the risk of hospitalization from COVID is about two to four in 100 for most people.”

Starting this week, the province will also use AstraZeneca to target vaccination in 13 high-risk communities, mostly in the Fraser Health region.

– With files from Canadian Press

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