Premier John Horgan marked the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 infection to emerge in B.C. by admonishing rule-breakers facilitating the spread of the virus.
“If you are coming into British Columbia on non-essential travel … you better behave appropriately, better follow our public health guidelines or we'll come down on you like a ton of bricks,” the premier said during a Wednesday (January 27) briefing in Victoria.
“For those who disregard the rules, we’re going to be taking steps to do what we can to make sure that they feel the pain of trying to get outside the box that all of us have been in.”
But Horgan would not commit to instituting tougher restrictions on interprovincial travellers, such as a 14-day quarantine like the one Manitoba has just instituted.
“We took a good look at the legal and other ramifications of bringing forward restrictions for non-essential travel. We discussed that briefly last week. Until such time as the public health officer advises me that there's a benefit to going down that road, we're going to leave it untravelled for the time being,” he said, adding he believes it would be more impractical to restrict travel to B.C. than Manitoba owing to the West Coast possessing more highways and urban centres.
“The challenge is, how would we do it?”
Horgan remained vague on what the government is willing to do to crack down on those flouting the rules beyond fines that already exist.
But he said he’ll “take action” if health officials report an increase in the number of travellers from outside B.C. begins contributing to an increase in community outbreaks.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began cautioning Canadians this month against travelling outside of the country in the event the federal government enacts new restrictions that make it more difficult to return home as new strains of COVID-19 emerge internationally.
“If there are new travel restrictions internationally, B.C. stands ready to work with the federal government to implement them here in B.C.,” Horgan said.
“When it comes to people from away coming here we want to welcome you to British Columbia. Our visitor economy is critically important to us, our tourism industry depends on people coming from away, but not today.”
The premier also took time to admonish vaccine queue-jumpers after reports emerged the former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming Corp., Rod Baker, and wife Ekaterina Baker flew to a remote community in the Yukon to receive doses ahead of the general population.
“That is not the type of behaviour the vast majority of British Columbians would expect from their neighbours, from their loved ones and it's the last thing I expected as a leader of a government. I believe there's nothing more un-Canadian than going to another jurisdiction to jump the line because you have the means to do so. Those are the types of examples we want to put in our rear-view mirror,” Horgan said.
“You can’t measure the contempt, I think, British Columbians have for that individual.”