The Canadian province of British Columbia is so overwhelmed by the latest wave of the pandemic, it will be setting up checkpoints to ensure nobody moves from their local areas. The provincial prime minister, John Horgan, made the surprise announcement of what he called a “circuit breaker” plan that will become effective Friday, angering opposition leaders who had not been forewarned.
“It came as a complete surprise,” Liberal leader Shirley Bond said, according to the Vancouver Sun. “The premier has had months to deal with the issue and consider potential travel restrictions. First, it was on the table, then it was off the table, there was a legal opinion, can’t do it, we’re not like other jurisdictions. Then today an announcement with zero details. People don’t know whether they can drive to work on Friday morning.”
Horgan said the measure will allow travel by those who can prove essential travel reasons, including work, but that all claims will be thoroughly validated and checkpoints will be set up throughout the province. He said they will also contact the ferry operators to various British Columbia islands and ask them to contact anyone with a booking to ensure their travel is essential. He said he would also work with the travel industry to make sure no bookings for tourism purposes are taken until the ban is lifted.
“They will be random and there will be a fine if you were traveling outside of your area without legitimate reasons,” Horgan said, adding that he is aware of concerns over how this may disproportionately target Black and Indigenous communities.
“This is about travel,” Horgan said. “There will be no additional authority given to police.” British Columbia will also extend its ban on indoor dining and drinking until the end of May.
Canada has been especially hard hit by the latest wave of the pandemic, in part due to a lack of vaccine supplies from the U.S., which has slowed their vaccine rollout program. So far, the country has relied mostly on the controversial AstraZeneca vaccine, for which they will also now lower the recommended age to get the jab from 55 to 40. Currently, hospital occupancy across the province is nearly 95 percent, meaning many with other health issues are unable to get the care they need.
Ontario, which is where Canada’s largest city Toronto is based, had also toyed with travel restrictions but determined that it would impinge on civil liberties and invite racial profiling. Instead, the city of Toronto is under strict lockdowns.
Travel restrictions have been commonplace in Europe and elsewhere, but largely unused in North America during the pandemic.