There are many legitimate reasons why someone with an American licence plate would be driving in British Columbia, and Dr. Bonnie Henry says it's important not to jump to conclusions.
Castanet has received many photos of American licence plates spotted across the Okanagan, with readers concerned the drivers are breaking the rules by being here. The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to tourists since March 21, and the closure has once again been extended through to Aug. 21.
One exception, which Dr. Henry has previously called the “Alaska loophole,” allows crossing to Americans who are travelling through to Alaska. Last month, police issued tickets to several Americans en route to Alaska who had stopped to hike near Lake Louise.
While Dr. Henry acknowledged this may be happening in small numbers, she said many people with American plates are Canadians who were living in the United States, who've since returned home due to the pandemic.
“We can't assume we know the story of the person who's driving a car with a licence plate from the United States,” she said. “They may have been here for a long time, they may have done their incubation period in isolation and are now safe to be out with us as well. I think we need to be charitable and we need to understand that everybody has a story and there are reasons that people need to come back home.”
“Quite frankly, with what's going in the U.S., if you had the ability to come home to Canada, I know many people have been taking that opportunity.”
While non-essential border closure has been extended to Aug. 21, Dr. Henry said given the current situation south of the border, she doesn't expect they'll be reopening it any time soon.
“They've had record numbers and unfortunately what we're starting to see are what we call the lag indicators – the hospitalizations, the deaths – now starting to increase, even though many of the cases are in younger people, so that's very concerning,” she said.
“We don't believe that there is any reason that we would expect to be able to safely have visitors, people who are here as tourists, in the coming weeks or months.”
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