Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has urged British Columbians to avoid all non-essential travel within to province and asked people from other parts of Canada not to visit, as part of several new restrictions aimed at slowing the recent surge in COVID-19.
Anyone who can avoid travelling outside of their own community should do so, Henry told a news conference on Thursday, as should anyone who can avoid travelling to B.C. at this time.
Anyone returning to B.C. to spend time with their families over the holidays, such as post-secondary students, should reduce their contact to those in their immediate household only, she said.
“What does this mean? It means, yes, you can move about within your region,” Henry clarified.
“If you live in Penticton, you can go to Summerland. If you live in Victoria, though, and you want to go to Tofino, then not such a good idea right now. If you want to go to a store in another community, then plan ahead and go as infrequently as possible.”
The policy shift comes as the province struggles to get a grip on its second wave of COVID-19. On Thursday, Henry also reported 538 new cases of the illness and one new death, as hospitalizations and the number of active cases climbed again.
She also announced that masks are required in all indoor, public places until Dec. 7, and that the ban on social gatherings outside of one’s immediately household be expanded from the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions to the entire province. The ban on travel with the two regions for sports was expanded to all of B.C. as well.
All in-person religious gatherings were also suspended for two weeks, except for weddings, funerals and baptisms.
The virus is spreading outside of Metro Vancouver and an increase of cases on Vancouver Island has been attributed to a social gathering involving people from both the mainland and the island.
Officials said the province will work with WorkSafeBC on enforcing the sweeping new measures, but it was not immediately clear how the non-essential travel ban would be carried out or how regional boundaries would be defined.
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