The B.C. government has once again extended its state of emergency, which allows the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth to continue to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act to support the province’s COVID-19 response.
The province has been in a provincial state of emergency since March 18, the longest period in B.C.’s history where emergency orders have been in place.
The previous record was set during the 2017 wildfire season when the province was in a provincial state of emergency for 10 weeks from July 7 to Sept. 15.
“It’s encouraging to see the vast majority of British Columbians following public health rules to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep each other safe,” B.C. Premier John Horgan said in a statement.
“However, there remains a small group of people ignoring Dr. Henry’s orders and threatening our hard work over the past several months to flatten the curve. This pandemic is not over, and whether it’s an end-of-summer gathering or hockey celebration, this is not the time to bend or break the rules. To those few who are not complying, there will be consequences.”
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On Friday, Aug. 21, police and other provincial enforcement officers were given the ability to issue $2,000 violation tickets for owners or organizers contravening the provincial health officer’s (PHO) order on gatherings and events.
For individuals, $200 violation tickets can be issued to those not following the direction of police or enforcement staff at events, or who refuse to comply with requests to follow safe operating procedures of a restaurant, bar or other licensed establishments, or respond with abusive behaviour towards employees.
The government said in the first week of the new enforcement measures (Aug. 21-28), 10 violation tickets were issued. This includes six $2,000 violation tickets for contraventions of the PHO’s order on gatherings and events and four $200 violation tickets issued to individuals.
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“Since we announced the new enforcement measures, we’ve seen several examples of violation tickets being issued to people breaking the law,” Farnworth said in a statement.
“It’s disappointing to see behaviour that shows a blatant disregard for the safety of citizens. It’s time to stop breaking the rules. It’s time to do better. It’s my hope that these enforcement measures will result in a change in behaviour and fewer violation tickets will be needed in the future.”
The state of emergency is extended through the end of the day on Sept. 15, 2020.
The extension of the provincial state of emergency is based on recommendations from B.C.’s health and emergency management officials. Farnworth made the original declaration on March 18, 2020, the day after Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, declared a public health emergency.
The provincial government can extend the period of a declaration made by the minister responsible for up to 14 days at a time.