Horgan calls on feds to discourage Canada-wide travel amid COVID-19

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VICTORIA -- The premier of British Columbia is calling on the federal government to establish a Canada-wide approach to discouraging travel between provinces amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

John Horgan addressed the media from Victoria on Wednesday morning amid a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in the province.

The premier said he will speak with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later this week and will ask him to establish "a pan-Canadian approach to travel" that ensures "people in Coquitlam are living under the same rules as people in Chicoutimi."

"I think it’s a question of leadership, and I’m not suggesting that there hasn’t been sufficient leadership at the federal level on a range of issues," Horgan said. "I’m asking the federal government to work with us and other provinces to get the message out that if you do not have to travel between jurisdictions, you shouldn’t do so."

The premier stressed that the approach he is proposing is not meant as a penalty on those regions with higher numbers of COVID-19 infections, but rather as a public health measure to keep all Canadians safe.

"The people of Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba need to know that they should stay in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba until we get to a place where we can start distributing a vaccine across the country," Horgan said.

"We want to make sure that we have an approach to travel that is not inconsistent with Canadian citizenship but recognizes that if we have all provincial leaders and the federal government speaking with one voice, telling people to stay home, we can work on the enforcement mechanisms," he said.

There have been 23,661 cases of COVID-19 in B.C. since the pandemic began, many of them added in the past two weeks as new cases of the virus have broken records almost daily.

On Tuesday, the province recorded an unprecedented 717 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 more deaths, marking the province’s deadliest day of the pandemic.

British Columbia’s COVID-19 death toll now stands at 310.

The premier also urged British Columbians to reduce social gatherings as much as possible, saying new case clusters "are coming from social gatherings, they’re not coming from workplaces."

"This is not the time to go storm-watching on the west coast of Vancouver Island," Horgan said. "This is not the time to plan for a large gathering of friends over the Christmas holiday. We need to focus on getting through the winter."

Horgan called on B.C. residents to remain committed to bending the curve until a COVID-19 vaccine is available.

"We are so close. Vaccine breakthroughs are very encouraging," Horgan said. "But we’re not there yet."