Interprovincial travel ban an unlikely response to combat COVID-19, B.C.’s top doctor says

We are too dependent on each other, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

Restrictions on travel from outside of Canada have, so far, not been applied to travel within the country to curb COVID-19. B.C. health officials say that it is unlikely due to the interconnectedness of the provinces.

The federal government has closed its borders to foreign nationals and non-Canadian citizens, as well as placed an official global travel advisory to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada. Anyone who returns to Canada from abroad is being asked to self-isolate for 14 days upon return.

On Saturday, March 21, the Northwest Territories announced it would be shutting its borders to inbound travel by air, land and port for non-residents.

RELATED: Border between Canada and U.S. likely to close Friday night

But an internal travel advisory does not appear to be on the horizon for Canada, simply because it would be too difficult to implement, according to B.C’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“We have had discussions nationally about how best to do that, but the reality is we are all interconnected,” she said. “We have family, we have urgent issues we share health care resources in some cases but we also share those essential lines of services like being able to deliver food to get resources to keep things moving all around us.”

Instead, Henry said, health officials have been focusing on how to ensure travellers are cautious of their health risks, through implementing health checks upon arrival so that people are self-monitoring their symptoms.

She urged anyone who has been exposed to the virus and those who aren’t feeling well to avoid travelling to other provinces.

“Take the same precautions you take when you are here,” she said, “like only going to places you need to go with your family, social distancing is being practiced across the board in this country whether you are here or in Saskatoon or in Whitehorse.”

An internal travel restriction was imposed in Italy on March 9. This came after a lockdown had been imposed on northern Italy, the scene of the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the country. That was then extended to the whole country when Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte issued a government decree that requires all people in Italy to demonstrate a need to work, health conditions or other reasons to travel outside of the regions where they live.

Chinese officials imposed a lockdown on the city of Wuhan, limiting travel in and out of that city and it has been credited with slowing down the spread of the virus.

British Columbia’s Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena dismissed the notion of an interprovincial travel ban during a wide-ranging interview March 17.

“We are one country,” she said. “We are looking at ways to continue as one country.”

RELATED: COVID-19: Tofino asks visitors to postpone trips, return home

B.C. is ensuring people can continue to travel around the province and if there is essential travel around the country needed, officials will make sure that continues.

“We are dependant in many ways on the rest of the country,” Trevena said. “We have economic dependency, we need our supply chains. We have two very important courts that operate. We need to ensure that we continue to have the ability to work as one country.”

It’s just as important that people take proper precautions when they travel, such as washing hands regularly, disposing of tissues and keeping at least two metres away from others.

READ MORE: More than 400 COVID-19 cases, 10 deaths in B.C.

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ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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