UPDATE: B.C. ramping up emergency response to COVID-19 pandemic - InfoNews

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UPDATE: B.C. ramping up emergency response to COVID-19 pandemic

Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
March 26, 2020 - 10:19 AM

The province threatened fines of over $25,000 and even jail time for people and businesses that don’t follow the orders to combat the spread of COVID-19.

"These are not suggestions or good advice, they are the law," Premier John Horgan said. "This is not a drill, it’s a pandemic."

Horgan said the powers under the Emergency Program Act are required to add more force to recent orders by B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who has instructed people to self-isolate for 14 days if sick or recently returned from travel and practise physical distancing.

"Today, we believe we are on the right track," said Horgan. "If we need to do more we will."

Horgan said the powers under the Emergency Program Act are required to add more force to recent orders by B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who has instructed people to self-isolate for 14 days if sick or recently returned from travel and practise physical distancing.

"Today, we believe we are on the right track," said Horgan. "If we need to do more we will."

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnsworth said the emergency orders issued today, March 26, will support efforts by Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix to reduce the numbers of infected people.ay.

"Listen to Dr. Henry," Farnworth said. "Dr. Henry's orders are not suggestions or good advice, they are the law."

Municipal bylaw officers will be permitted to enforce orders limiting the size of gatherings and business closures, Farnworth said.

The government is also looking to use vacant convention centres and other large community spaces for overflow health facilities, he said.

Farnworth said the government has created a supply-chain unit of government and industry advisers that will co-ordinate the flow of goods and services by land, air, marine and rail. He said aircraft currently not flying due to global travel restrictions could be used to make deliveries of supplies.

Farnworth said the resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment and cleaning products has also been banned.

Local states of emergency have been suspended so there is a coordinated response.

Farnworth declared a provincial state of emergency on March 18, the day after Henry declared a public health emergency on March 17.

Here is a list of the extraordinary powers enacted under the Emergency Program Act:

Maintaining the supply chain for essential goods and services

  • A new, Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit will co-ordinate goods and services distribution in partnership with industry.
  • The Province will take a more active role in co-ordinating essential goods and services movement by land, air, marine and rail. All air services required to transport essential goods, services or personnel shall be managed through establishing of a Coordinated Provincial Air Service.
  • Any bylaws that restrict goods delivery at any time of day are suspended.
  • The Province will identify and take control of warehouses and other facilities for gathering supplies and resources if required.

Protecting Consumers

  • The resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning products and other essential supplies is prohibited.
  • The Province will work with retailers and industry to restrict quantities of certain items purchased at point of sale to make sure there is enough supply for those who need them.

Enforcement

  • Municipal bylaw officers are enabled to be re-deployed to support enforcement of the provincial health officer's orders and directives carrying fines of over $25,000 or jail, to be determined by the courts under the authority of the Public Health Act.

Travel

  • Direct passenger and car ferry operators, in consultation with the Province, will provide minimum service levels and priority access for residents, and essential goods and workers.

Protecting the most vulnerable

  • Regulatory and administrative barriers will be removed to make it easier to support critical services for vulnerable people, like food banks and shelters.
  • Evictions due to loss of income related to COVID-19 that would otherwise be allowed under the Residential Tenancy Act will be prevented or suspended.

Better emergency response and recovery co-ordination

  • All orders issued under local states of emergency under COVID-19 will be suspended and local governments will activate their emergency plans.
  • The City of Vancouver's state of emergency orders remain. Going forward, the city will require permission to issue further new orders under its state of emergency.
  • Public facilities, like community centres, will be identified to be used for pandemic response: self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing and distribution.
  • Mutual aid agreements will be put in place for first responders.
  • Local governments will be given the ability to hold more flexible meetings to expedite decisions.
  • Local governments will be directed to develop business continuity plans and advanced planning for other emergencies, such as freshet flooding and wildfires.

Additional measures

  • On the direction of the Province, a hotel operator or commercial lodging operator must provide accommodation services for the purposes of self-isolation, supporting essential workforces or for other purposes identified by the Province.

Ministerial orders issued under the Emergency Program Act can be found here.

For recommendations on protecting yourself and your community, including for employers and businesses go here.

For the COVID-19 pandemic preparedness and planning materials go here.

For more information and latest medical updates on COVID-19, follow the BC Centre for Disease Control on Twitter @CDCofBC or visit its website here.

For more information on non-medical issues like travel recommendations and how to manage social isolation go here.

— With files from The Canadian Press

— This story was updated at 1:43 p.m. Thursday, March 26, 2020, to include more information.


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