Non-essential travel is restricted between Canada and the U.S.

As cases of COVID-19 continue to surge south of the border, B.C.'s top doctor says she "cannot see" vacation travel happening between Canada and the United States this summer.

During her briefing Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry said local health officials are "very concerned" about the number of cases in the U.S., adding that travel across the border is how B.C. "got into trouble" earlier in the pandemic. 

"Back in March we had a lot of people in across the border," she said. "A number of our new cases are people who've either travelled or been in contact with somebody who just came back from the U.S."

In a modelling briefing last month, Henry said many of the virus cases recorded in B.C. are from "Washington state-like strains."  

On Monday, Henry said officials are still seeing "quite a bit of travel" between the two countries, but that it's certainly not as much as before border regulations were introduced. 

Currently, the border between Canada and the U.S. is closed to non-essential travel, with some exceptions for immediate family members. 

But as virus rates continue to grow in the U.S., both Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said residents shouldn't expect to be able to book leisure travel anytime soon, especially because the virus is so widespread in American communities.

"It's important to remember it's not just the issue of people visiting Canada," Dix said. "It's Canadians visiting the United States that would not be possible at this point."

Last week, B.C.'s premier spoke out against American travellers stopping in the province under the exemption that allows Alaska residents to drive home.  

"Health-care workers have put themselves at risk to protect all of us and we do not want to throw that away for queue jumpers, for people who want to say they're going somewhere and do something else," John Horgan said Thursday. "If you want to get to Alaska, we do not want to impede, but you should go directly."

But on Monday, Henry said she didn't know of any cases in B.C. that are connected to people who have been in the province from the U.S.

"We have had people become sick once they're here in B.C., but not anybody that I'm aware of who's here in B.C. vacationing when they shouldn't be," she said. 

"We remind all British Columbians to show kindness and understanding to those around us. We have to remember that many Canadians reside elsewhere and many of them are only now returning home … so let's assume the best."

Even when the border does reopen, however, Henry said she hopes self-isolation regulations remain. 

Canadians travelling to B.C.

Henry said B.C. businesses relying on tourism have implemented measures and safety plans to welcome Canadian visitors into the province. 

The provincial health officer has repeatedly said she doesn't support closing borders between provinces, but instead has shared a list of "travel manners" for anyone – B.C. resident or otherwise – visiting other communities.

"Anyone who's new to British Columbia from elsewhere in Canada, whether they're coming for work or on vacation, needs to understand that here in B.C., we are keeping our bubbles small," she said.

"We are maintaining our safe distance from others, whether it's in a store, on transit or in our community. Using masks when it's challenging to maintain that safe distance, and always, always staying away from others and staying home if we're feeling ill."