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COVID-19: Questions grow over enforcement of British Columbia’s new travel restrictions

One day after the B.C. Government announced new travel restrictions, concerns are being expressed over who and how the new rules will be enforced.

“There’s a whole piece around what (this) means for businesses who have to put their front-line staff in a potential conflict situation. Are they supposed to be asking for the reason you’re travelling, checking your credentials?” said Lisanne Ballantyne, president and CEO of Tourism Kelowna.

While Tourism Kelowna supports public health measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19, Ballantyne said the organization is hoping for more clarity on how those specific measures will be implemented.

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COVID: B.C. to implement random roadside checks to restrict provincial travel

“It would be a terrible situation to put the front-line staff into and a terrible role to push onto owners and operators to become the enforcement arm and it’s not even realistic,” Ballantyne said.

“So these are things that I know are keeping us all in the industry up at night and we look forward to getting clarity on.”

On Monday, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced that the province is bringing in a new order that will prohibit people from crossing health authority boundaries.

“There will be fines if you are travelling outside of your area without a legitimate reason,” Horgan said.

The new order is expected to come into effect later this week and remain in place until at least the May long weekend.

Click to play video: Nova Scotia shuts down border to 7 provinces as COVID-19 cases increase

Ballantyne said the tourism industry is in wait-and-see mode, awaiting more details on the new restrictions, but expects there to be an impact.

“It’s going to have some level of impact on what is normally a $2 billion tourism industry in the Kelowna area,” Ballantyne said.

The Kelowna Hotel Motel Association echoed the sentiment that it, too, is anxiously awaiting for the province to outline the new orders in more detail.

“This is obviously something that our industry takes very seriously,” said Natalie Corbett, association president.

“Our role is really to make sure our members understand what’s expected and that they have the supports needed to continue to operate their business under whatever restrictions that the province feels is necessary.”

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Monday’s announcement about not crossing health authorities is also creating some confusion based on what the province’s top doctor said just last week.

Dr. Bonnie Henry discouraged travel of any kind, even locally.

“If you live in Penticton you should not be going to Sun Peaks or Oliver or Kelowna right now,” she said on April 12. “We need to only do that type of travel if it’s essential and nothing more.”

“The new orders around travelling within your neighbouring communities definitely needs more explanation,” Ballantyne said.

According to a government spokesperson, travelling outside of a health authority will be an order while traveling to neighbouring communities within a health authority is based more on public health advice and something people are strongly discouraged to do.

The province stated it plans to provide more details on the new restrictions later in the week.

Click to play video: Logistics of how B.C. plans to enforce new COVID-19 travel restrictions in the province

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