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Time to ban interprovincial travel for workers on resource projects

Writer pens an open letter to B.C.’s health minister asking for a ban on out-of-province workers
Letter to the editor

I want to begin by thanking you, as health minister, and Dr. Bonnie Henry for the tremendous sustained effort and energy that you and your team have done to help manage the spread of COVID-19 in the Province of B.C. We in BC are very grateful for your commitment to bring the best possible health care to all British Colombians.

Rising COVID-19 numbers in north central and northwestern B.C. are quickly becoming a matter of grave concern to citizens who live in these regions. On Dec. 18, The CBC’s Andrew Kurjata reported that “Between Nov. 18 and Dec. 17 there have been 108 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Nechako Local Health Area — a region with fewer than 13,000 people. That means nearly one per cent of the population has been infected in a month.” That is an alarming spread.

It is also alarming that it appears very little has been done to limit and restrict workers who travel from other provinces to work on mega-projects such as the Coastal Gas Link project that loosely parallels a region south of highway 16 as it snakes through the Lakes District.

These projects are bringing hundreds and hundreds of workers into our region on a regular sustained basis. More recently on Dec. 20, The Interior News reported Northern Health has declared an outbreak of COVID-19 at two accommodation sites for workers on the Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline project near Burns Lake.

In a written statement, the health authority said 27 people had tested positive for the virus so far, and 17 cases are still active.

Here In Terrace and Kitimat, we nervously watch as a steady stream of construction workers fly into the Northwest Regional Airport from across Canada. Many of these workers come from areas hard hit by COVID-19. Not surprisingly we have also had outbreaks at the LNG Canada work camp in Kitimat.

It is time to put the safety of the residents of Northern B.C. ahead of the ongoing, unrelenting travel that brings these workers and COVID-19 from across Canada into Northern B.C.

Given the current severity of COVID-19 throughout much of Canada I believe it is time to scale things back and close all inter-provincial travel by out-ofprovince workers.

While COVID-19 spread is complex and multifaceted, this is one significant measure I believe would contribute toward bringing north central and northwestern B.C.’s rising COVID-19 numbers under control.

In northern BC have limited hospital capacity. On a couple of occasions we have been helped by resources from outside our region. We are very grateful and thankful for that strategic assistance by your ministry.

We ask you as the minister of health to take action and close all inter-provincial work related traffic into B.C. before an alarming situation becomes an even more serious situation.

Charles Claus