B.C. declares state of emergency due to COVID-19 pandemic

B.C.'s Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth has called a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
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"Be kind, be calm and be safe."

Those were the words of Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, as he called a B.C. state of emergency today in response to COVID-19.

"What today's declaration allows is a provincewide approach to back up the public health emergency declaration," Farnworth said.

In particular, he said, it allows for additional powers in areas such as securing the critical supply chains to make sure people have access to essential goods and services, and ensuring that infrastructure necessary in a response is readily available.

"Declaring a state of emergency is an important measure to support our provincial health officer and minister of health in swift and powerful response to the COVID-19 pandemic," Farnworth said. "We are working with partners across government and industry to co-ordinate emergency response efforts, and we won't hesitate to use the tools available to us to keep people safe."

The state of emergency is initially in effect for 14 days, once issued, and may be extended or rescinded as necessary. The state of emergency applies to the whole province and allows federal, provincial and local resources to be delivered in a co-ordinated effort.

There are "extraordinary powers" made available once a state of emergency is called, such as the power to ration food or set the price for food and gas.

That said, Farnworth said there has been good compliance and supply chains are strong thus far and it's not expected that many of the powers will need to be implemented.

The last two times a state of emergency was called were during the 2017 and 2018 wildfires.

"The way people came together in those events was nothing short of extraordinary," he said, cautioning people to be vigilant about hand hygiene, physical or social distancing and to stay home if they are sick.

While there has been good compliance, Farnworth said he is aware of reselling groceries by individuals and also cases of prices being raised.

"There is no place for price gouging or individuals or retailers taking advantage of this unprecedented health crisis... it is important to recognize we are all in this together and making products unavailable, (raising prices) or hoarding doesn't help."

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