About a week after declaring a provincial state of emergency, the B.C. government has announced a series of steps on Thursday morning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To begin with, the province established a new Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit to coordinate the distribution of goods and services.
This also allows them to coordinate the movement of goods across land, air, marine, and rail. All air services required to transport essential goods, services or personnel will be managed through a Coordinated Provincial Air Service.
The new measures gives the province the power to take control of warehouses and other facilities for gathering supplies and resources if required.
In an effort to make sure there are enough essential supplies for those who need them, particularly frontline health care workers, the provincial government has banned the resale of essential goods like food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, and cleaning supplies.
Stores will also be required to restrict the quantities of essential items that are purchased by each individual or household.
An additional measure to enforce Dr. Bonnie Henry’s provincial health orders has also been announced by Minister of Public Safety, Mike Farnworth.
Municipal bylaw officers will henceforth have the power to issue fines of over $25,000 or arrests for people found disobeying Dr. Henry’s social distancing directives, gatherings of 50 or more people, and for businesses that have not yet closed despite the provincial health order.
The province is also suspending the ability of municipal governments to declare a local state of emergency, other than the City of Vancouver.
Municipalities will now be required to coordinate the use of local publicly-owned facilities, like community centres, for self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing and distribution.
All of the above orders take effect immediately.
“B.C. is in a strong position to effectively respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Farnworth.
“Informed by the direction of the provincial health officer, we’re taking these critical steps to keep our communities safe, goods moving and essential service workers supported.”
See all the latest updates about the global COVID-19 pandemic on Vancouver Island
According to the latest update, there are now 659 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. including 47 on Vancouver Island.
The federal government recently announced an $82 billion assistance package for Canadians and businesses struggling financially during the global pandemic. This was followed by a $5 billion relief package announced by the B.C. provincial government.
This includes a $2,000/month package for four months for all Canadians who have lost income due to COVID-19, and $500/month assistance package to help tenants pay rent in B.C.
The provincial government also announced the indefinite suspension of all in-person classes at K-12 schools in B.C., closure of all bars and restaurants, and a moratorium on evictions among other steps to enforce social distancing measures.
Canada has tightened its borders and is denying entry to people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents in Canada.
U.S. citizens are no longer an exception to this rule, and non-essential travel between U.S. and Canada has been temporarily banned as of March 21st. Moreover international flights have now been restricted to international airports in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary.
The BCCDC has set up a 2019 novel coronavirus telephone information line at 1-833-784-4397 for those who have further questions about this disease.
Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, should contact their primary care provider, local public health office, or call 8-1-1.
The Province has also created the 1-888-COVID-19 line to connect British Columbians needing non-medical information about the coronavirus pandemic.
As of the time of publication, the total number of COVID-19 patients worldwide has risen to 499,959.
Over 22,300 people have died from the illness and 121,214 have made a full recovery.