B.C. premier to call on prime minister for national travel policy to fight COVID-19

·2 min read

VICTORIA — British Columbia Premier John Horgan says he will lobby Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to tell Canadians that travel within the country at this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic should only be for essential purposes.

He said he is not asking for federal travel restrictions, but he wants Trudeau to stress the importance of staying home while COVID-19 cases surge in much of Canada.

"It's a question of leadership," Horgan told a news conference Wednesday.

"I'm encouraging the prime minister to take this opportunity to work with all of us, and I'm confident that he will say broadly to all Canadians, 'Stay where you live, reduce your social interactions, do only those things that are essential to you and your family and your business and your employment.' "

The connection between travel and the spread of COVID-19 needs to be addressed nationally by Trudeau, said Horgan. He said he intends to bring up his proposal at this week's regular meeting of the prime minister and premiers.

"We need a pan-Canadian approach to travel," Horgan said. "That is, the people of Quebec and Ontario and Manitoba need to know that they should stay in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba until we get to a place where we can start distributing a vaccine across the country."

B.C. has been posting record-high numbers of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks despite travel restrictions imposed by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to much of Metro Vancouver almost two weeks ago.

Horgan, who has been facing calls to restrict travel to Vancouver Island, suggested Henry was poised to impose further restrictions later this week.

"When it comes to travel, non-essential travel is prohibited in B.C. and will remain that way for the next two weeks at least," he said.

B.C. reported 762 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. The province also said there have been 10 additional deaths related to the virus, bringing B.C.'s death total to 320.

Horgan said he understands Canadians cannot be prevented from travelling throughout the country, but there should be a national effort to stress that travel at this stage of the pandemic should be on an essential basis only.

"I'm going to reach out to the prime minister," Horgan said. "I'm asking the federal government to work with us and other provinces to get the message out that if you do not have to travel between jurisdictions, you shouldn't do so."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2020.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press