BC’s Ministry of Health has released an advanced action plan today, in hopes of protecting people in the province against novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

With a goal of minimizing the illness’ impact, the BC government and the provincial health officer have developed the British Columbia Pandemic Provincial Co-ordination Plan to respond to the evolving outbreak.

A deputy ministers’ committee has been appointed by Premier John Horgan to oversee a unified approach to implementing the plan, which will report directly to a new cabinet committee that he and Health Minister Adrian Dix will co-chair.

“From the first day the world learned of this outbreak, B.C.’s public health officials have delivered the most robust response of any jurisdiction in this hemisphere,” Premier Horgan said.

“Through this co-ordination plan, we will ensure they have the support they need so we are prepared for all possibilities.”

COVID-19’s rising pandemic has spurred a response plan that includes a wide range of planning and preparedness actions to help all walks of life – the plan focuses on delaying, containing and preparing the province to minimize serious illness.

Phase 1 of the plan is underway, addressing identification and containment — continuing strong public health testing and close collaboration with the federal government on border surveillance, to identify and isolate individuals who test positive for the virus and their close contacts. The priority is to delay the onset of widespread community transmission for as long as possible.

Phase 2 would escalate cross-government co-ordination to quickly direct actions and resources, as required. It also prepares for the use of emergency powers set out in the Emergency Program Act and Public Health Act. It would ensure provincial business and service continuity – with four priorities:

1. Protecting Population

Protecting Population actions would include increasing testing capacity and expanding communication with at-risk groups. It would also enact government continuity plans to prepare for the possibility of high absence rates due to illness, or if employees are absent in order to care for family. It would also provide supports for businesses and institutions to manage the same challenges through a sustained three- to four-month outbreak; including grocery stores, public transportation, schools and the tourism sector.

2. Protecting Vulnerable Citizens

Seniors in long-term care assisted living and home and community care, which could include reducing the number of people coming into facilities, screening visitors and increasing testing for illness of residents and health-care workers.

3. Protecting Health Workers

Implementing standardized preparedness plans at the local level to support health-care workers to respond to a wider outbreak and provincially manage and co-ordinate supply chains for hospital, community and primary care. It would also bring in additional health-care capacity for specific communities under stress by establishing a list of health-care workers who could be rapidly redeployed for a sustained period.

4. Supporting Health-care Capacity

Supporting Health-Care Capacity actions would use established emergency operation committees across health authorities to assess the ability to plan and respond at a local level to a community-wide outbreak and create capacity, as needed, in hospitals for:

    • discharging low-risk patients;
    • deferring scheduled surgeries and procedures;
    • identifying capacity for new care spaces within hospitals;
    • and ensuring bed equipment capacity.

As of Friday, March 6, there have been 21 confirmed COVID-19 cases in BC, four patients have now fully recovered.

A woman in her 80s who travelled to Hong Kong and India was diagnosed with a critical case of COVID-19 when she returned and remains in isolation in ICU at Vancouver General Hospital.

None of these cases are on Vancouver Island, and there have been no deaths connected to novel coronavirus in Canada.

Officials are reminding anyone who feels unwell to stay home from work or school and to call 811 or their health practitioner if they have symptoms of coronavirus infection, such as a fever or cough.

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