Police checkpoints will prevent Manitobans from visiting cottages in Ontario, except under rare circumstances
As COVID cases rise, non-essential road travel into Ontario will be banned starting Monday
Manitobans looking to visit cottage country in Ontario will soon be out of luck unless it's their primary home, or they're travelling to prevent damage to the property.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced new public health restrictions Friday as cases of COVID-19 linked to coronavirus variants continue to rise in that province. Among the restrictions is a ban on non-essential road travel from Manitoba and Quebec.
Unless given permission, driving across the Ontario border will be prohibited starting 12:01 a.m. on April 19. Ontario law enforcement officials will be patrolling the interprovincial borders to ensure anyone trying to enter the province has a valid reason to do so.
"Should an individual not have a valid reason to enter Ontario, they will be turned back," said Ontario's Solicitor General Sylvia Jones during a news conference Friday.
The federal government is already testing international travellers for COVID-19 at airports. Jones says there are 43 roads combined that lead into Ontario from Manitoba and Quebec and she wants people screened at those border crossings too.
Members of the Ontario Provincial Police will set up checkpoints at interprovincial entry roads to screen all vehicles. Officers will have the authority to ask travellers their purpose for leaving home and to give their home address, the OPP said in a news release.
"Why are you coming into Ontario at this time? Is it necessary for medical, personal or work reasons? If it's not, respectfully, you need to turn away until we deal with the variants, and until we get sufficient vaccines to make sure that our citizens are protected," said Jones.
There are over a dozen exemptions that allow people to travel into Ontario, such as someone moving to Ontario, those travelling through without "unnecessary stops" to reach their home in another jurisdiction, or for work or essential purposes, such as trucking or health care.
Failing to comply with the Ontario restrictions could result in a fine of at least $750. Anyone obstructing "an authority or individual" from enforcing or complying with an order can be fined a minimum of $1,000, the OPP says.
The new Ontario public health order means Manitobans can only cross the provincial border if their "principal residence" is in Ontario, or to prevent damage to property there.
"At this time, Manitobans are strongly discouraged from all non-essential travel. This includes within the province and interprovincially due to the highly contagious variants of concern," said a news release issued by the Manitoba government.
Manitobans shouldn't have any issue with Ontario's new travel restrictions, however, given the Manitoba government has been advising residents not to travel outside the province for non-essential reasons, a spokesperson for Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister told CBC News in a statement.
There is also a mandatory two-week isolation period for all non-essential travelers arriving in Manitoba and those travellers are to get two COVID-19 tests during that period, the spokesperson noted.
Previously, Manitobans could skirt around the isolation period to visit cottages in other provinces if they didn't make any unnecessary stops and didn't interact with anyone outside the household.
Meanwhile, Manitoba officials are debating whether to take similar action to Ontario.
On Friday, Manitoba's acting deputy chief public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal stopped short of saying checkpoints along highways and at airports will be coming.
But he did say those initiatives are being considered.
More information about Manitoba's next public health order will be released early next week, Atwal said.
With files from Cameron MacIntosh and Stephen Ripley