VICTORIA — People returning to British Columbia from international travel are now legally required to present self-isolation plans or they will be placed in quarantine, Premier John Horgan said Wednesday.
The new legal measures support the provincial health officer's travel orders and reinforce the federal emergency order under the Quarantine Act requiring people entering Canada to self-isolate for 14 days, he told a news conference.
Horgan said the government will have officials in place starting Friday at Vancouver International Airport and major land border crossings to make sure the plans are complete.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the new travel rules will strengthen the strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"Part of that is making sure we don't have gaps in our firewall," she said.
Henry said five more people have died from COVID-19 in B.C., bringing the province's death toll to 48.
Another 45 positive tests for the virus were announced on Wednesay for a total of 1,336 cases. Henry said 226 of those cases are at 21 long-term care homes where there have been outbreaks, with 138 residents and 88 staff members infected.
Henry said 838 people have recovered from COVID-19.
Horgan suggested similar travel return measures will be taken by the federal government in the coming days and travellers arriving at airports in Toronto and Montreal will also be required to present self-isolation plans.
He said returning travellers must complete a document that shows they have supports in place to self-isolate for 14 days. The document can be submitted online or completed on arrival, Horgan said.
He said the travel measures are part of B.C.'s plan to fight the spread of COVID-19 and the government wants measures in place where people understand the rules when they arrive.
"We want to make sure we can help them be good actors by giving them the tools they need and acknowledging to them that coming back to Canada and then stopping at the golf course to hit a bucket of balls and maybe going to pick up some groceries and stopping at a buddy's place is not self isolation," Horgan said.
If the self-isolation plan is not approved, Horgan said those travellers will be taken to a "quarantine site" until they can get arrangements in place.
Earlier Wednesday, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said local governments across Canada are facing significant financial pressures due to COVID-19.
Vancouver expects losses of $4 million to $5 million a week between March and May, he said.
Stewart called on the B.C. government to expand its provincial property tax deferment program to include all residents, businesses and non-profit agencies. The mayor also asked the province for an emergency grant of up to $200 million so Vancouver can maintain essential services and pay for programs that support vulnerable residents.
B.C. also announced the closure of all provincial parks Wednesday to ensure compliance with recommendations to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Environment Minister George Heyman said in a statement efforts were made to provide spaces for exercise and fresh air in the parks but it "has proven too challenging" to maintain safe physical distancing of two metres between visitors.
The timing of the decision is aimed at heading off Easter weekend campers. BC Parks has also extended a ban on camping in all its parks until May 31.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2020
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press