In this July 6, 2017 photo, the Yoho River flows through Yoho National Park, which is contiguous with Kootenay National Park in Canada's stretch of the Rocky Mountains.
Members of Quebec’s provincial police force stop motorists at a checkpoint near the Ontario border in Riviere Beaudette, Que., west of Montreal, Sunday, March 29, 2020, as Coronavirus COVID-19 cases rise in Canada and around the world.
Regional authorities in southeastern B.C. are calling on the provincial health officer to tighten inter-provincial traffic, over fears that the travellers could spur a wave of COVID-19 in local communities.
The board chair for the Regional District of East Kootenay has asked authorities to close the provincial border, as well as the backcountry out of fears that non-locals attempting to hide out in campgrounds and vacation homes from the pandemic, could overwhelm the few community resources available to curb the virus.
“As a region, we are united in our desire to reduce the impacts of this virus on our health care system and our communities,” RDEK Board Chair Rob Gay wrote in a letter to the B.C. health officer. “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.”
The board is especially concerned that, as Easter approaches, thousands might come to region to spend the long weekend.
Gay added that the East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook, which is the largest healthcare facility in the region, has only 11 ventilators. Many health centres in their smaller communities only have one. “There is concern emergency services, the health care system, local grocery stores and other essential service providers simply will not be equipped to handle an influx of people at this time and under these extraordinary circumstances,” reads the news release of the board’s statement.
The board also urges all non-resident property owners to stay in their homes and avoid travelling. Every interaction with others increases the potential for the spread of infection and this behaviour needs to stop,” stressed Gay. “We want to be very clear that this is not a province to province issue. This is also about behaviours locally within our region.”
The rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Canada daily has led to unusual restrictions on inter-provincial travel. Last week, the Quebec government added police presence to travel between Ottawa and Gatineau and implemented checkpoints for traffic between the province and Ontario, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland Labrador.
As of Friday, Manitoba put into place checkpoints on all of its highways linking with Ontario and Sakskatchewan. Nova Scotia followed closely behind, implementing its own checkpoints to restrict traffic.
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