(Minister of Health Adrian Dix/Province of B.C. - Flickr)

The B.C. Ministry of Health is expanding their 2-1-1 phone line in order to help support seniors living at home who are at risk of becoming isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Minister Adrian Dix pointed out that a large chunk of the province’s senior population live at home and rely on networks of volunteers to help them perform tasks.

According to Isobel Mackenzie, B.C.’s seniors advocate, many seniors are afraid that if they contract COVID-19, they will die.

“They are also more likely to have complicated health issues and worried about whether they’ll receive the care for those health issues while we focus on COVID-19,” said Mackenzie.

In light of these concerns, the province is expanding their 2-1-1 phone line to connect volunteers or services to those seniors who need help.

Any senior needing assistance or volunteer wishing to provide help across B.C. can now access the phone line and reach a live operator who will then match them up.

Another aspect of today’s announcement includes increased funding to the Better at Home program through which volunteers provide various services to seniors.

“Services include meal delivery, wellness checks, delivery of medicines and more. These supports will go a long way to helping seniors at home,” said Mackenzie.

Significant capacity has been added to the 2-1-1 line in order to accommodate everyone who calls, but Mackenzie ask for patience in case the line cannot be reached right away

“This is uncharted territory.”

All volunteers who may interact with seniors face to face are required to go through a criminal background check, which will be expedited through the Attorney General’s office, and take the COVID-19 self assessment test.

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 522,714.

Over 23,600 people have died from the illness and 123,322 have made a full recovery.

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