British Columbia

Close B.C.-Alberta border to non-essential traffic, East Kootenay officials plead

The East Kootenay Regional District is asking provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to introduce stronger measures limiting the influx of people into the region to stop the spread of COVID-19 — including closing the B.C.-Alberta border to non-essential traffic.

District also calling for closure of campgrounds to limit influx of people

A statement from the district says that Easter weekend typically sees a surge of thousands of recreationalists and second-home owners coming to the East Kootenay. (Shutterstock / Tupungato)

The East Kootenay Regional District is asking provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to limit the influx of people into the region to stop the spread of COVID-19 — including closing the B.C.-Alberta border to non-essential traffic.

The district's board of directors passed a resolution last week also asking for the closure of campgrounds and overnight camping in the backcountry. 

"While the Provincial Health Officers on both sides of the border have been clear in their messaging that people need to be staying home, that message is not being heeded. We are gravely concerned about the potential impacts on our small rural hospitals, front-line workers and communities," RDEK board chair Rob Gay wrote in a statement.

"Under the provincial state of emergency, local governments do not have the tools to make these changes ourselves, but we are pleading with the Province to act now to help us prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our corner of the Province."

Holiday home and RV owners told not to travel

In a daily briefing on Tuesday, Henry said she didn't have the authority to close the border, and that she didn't find the measure necessary.

"Really the pandemic we're experiencing is very similar to what's happening in Alberta. I would encourage everyone in B.C. to do what we need to do. Alberta will do the same," she said.

But Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix discouraged people from using Easter long weekend to travel to holiday homes in rural communities.

"It is important that we don't go to communities that don't have the resources to support us if we get sick," said Henry.

The statement from the regional district said that Easter weekend typically sees a surge of thousands of  second home owners and people in recreational vehicles coming to the East Kootenay.

It warned that facilities like grocery stores, the health-care system and emergency services could be overwhelmed as they struggle to deal with COVID-19.

"People pulling trailers should be warned at this point they really are not wanted in British Columbia," said Gay.

"Let's just do a spot closure — temporary in nature ... people [will] just say, 'We're not going to put up with that hassle. Let's just stay home this weekend.'"

With files from Bob Keating

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