Public health advice to again stop non-essential travel to and around B.C. is the latest blow to a tourism industry struggling to keep going with domestic business and strict precautions to protect customers and staff from COVID-19.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry renewed that advice this week as B.C. recorded its fourth straight day with more than 600 new cases of coronavirus diagnosed across the province. The latest wave of cases means B.C. residents have to go back to their initial precautions from the early days of the pandemic this spring, Henry says. The Tourism Industry Association of B.C., representing the hardest-hit sector of the economy, was quick to respond.
“While we recognize the province’s request to curtail non-essential travel, we’re concerned that tourism operators will again bear the brunt of the impact,” TIABC board chair Vivek Sharma said in a bulletin to members. “It’s important to note that travel is not the culprit for increasing transmission rates, but rather people’s behaviour. That’s where we need to step up our efforts.”
Henry’s latest restrictions are focused on the sharply increased infection rates in the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver, with non-essential travel to and from the province’s most densely populated region targeted first. With cases still running at record highs after the first week of restrictions on private gatherings, indoor fitness classes and other activities deemed high risk, Henry called for the effort to be expanded.
“We have asked for only essential travel to be considered to and from the areas where we are seeing most transmission in the communities, but I call upon people across the province,” Henry said in a pandemic briefing from the B.C. legislature Nov. 16. “Now is not the time to travel for recreation or non-essential purposes, whether it’s from the Lower Mainland to the Island, whether it’s between the Interior and the North, whether it’s to and from other provinces in Canada.”
The B.C. government’s priority is on keeping schools and businesses operating as normally as possible, and protecting the health care system. As of Monday there were 11 new outbreaks declared in health care facilities, for a total of 52 active, with 45 of those in long-term care facilities centred mainly in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions.
Public health “guidance” documents posted last week repeatedly note that there is no public health order barring travel within the province, just as there is no province-wide order to wear masks in public.