Province takes ‘unprecedented steps’ to enforce state of emergency amid COVID-19

Province takes 'unprecedented steps' to enforce state of emergency amid COVID-19
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The BC government is using extraordinary powers under a state of provincial emergency in an effort to keep British Columbians safe

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, is using extraordinary powers under a state of provincial emergency in an effort to keep British Columbians safe while maintaining essential goods and services as part of the Province’s ongoing response to novel coronavirus.

On Thursday morning Farnworth, along with BC Premier John Horgan, announced a series of new ministerial orders to be taken under the Emergency Program Act and that will be in effect for the duration of the provincial emergency. Among these measures includes the ability for municipal officers to fine those not practicing social distancing as well as a total ban of secondary resale of food or supplies.

Farnworth outlined the below measures, to be put into effect immediately:

  • Supply chain: Establishing a new Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit to coordinate goods and services distribution; taking a more active role in coordinating essential goods and services movement by land, air, marine and rail; and suspending any bylaws that restrict goods delivery at any time of day.
  • Protecting consumers: Banning the secondary resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning and other essential supplies; and restricting quantities of items purchased at point of sale.
  • Enforcement: Enabling municipal bylaw officers to support enforcement of the provincial health officer’s orders for business closures and gatherings, in line with offences under the Public Health Act.
  • Travel: Ensuring all passenger and car-ferry services provide minimum service levels and priority access for residents, and essential goods and workers.
  • Protecting B.C.’s most vulnerable: Making it easier to support critical services for vulnerable people, like food banks and shelters.
  • Co-ordination: Suspending local states of emergency specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, except for the City of Vancouver; giving municipal councils the ability to hold more flexible meetings to expedite decisions; and co-ordinating potential use of local publicly owned facilities, like community centres, for self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing and distribution.

“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.”

Horgan acknowledged that these are drastic steps, but with not enough people following the social distancing pleas from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, he emphasized that unprecedented moves need to be made.

“These are unchartered territories for all of us,” said Horgan. “This is not a drill, this is a pandemic.”

According to the BC Government, these unprecedented steps were made based on the recommendation of B.C.’s health officials and will support Dr. Henry in “a coordinated cross-government approach to COVID-19 response and recovery.”

Farnworth added, “Many local governments, First Nations and partners have stepped up to make sure they have prepared to protect their communities from the impacts of COVID-19. Today’s measures will make sure communities are taking necessary steps, in coordination with the Province, to get ready should more action be required to combat COVID-19.”

Farnworth and Horgan continued to echo the sentiments stressed daily by Dr. Henry and BC Health Minister Adrian Dix saying if you do not need to go out, stay home.

Although Dr. Henry has encouraged people to go outside during the pandemic, large groups have been seen gathering at beaches or in parks over the last few weeks, which ultimately led the BC Government to take the next step and install these measures.

Minister Dix, who is scheduled to give an update to British Columbians later Thursday afternoon, endorsed the new measures from Farnworth while recognizing there extremity.

“In these new and challenging times we are facing, we’re asking British Columbians to stay strong as a community, and together we can get through this,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “I’m proud of the strategic measures we have enacted government-wide to help our families and health-care workers, to keep them safe and supported. By issuing a series of ministerial orders, we recognize that this is not forever, but it is for now. With everyone stepping in and respecting the extraordinary means we have to take, we will overcome this.”

The stricter action being taken in British Columbia parallels certain moves by the federal government, who are now issuing massive fines and prison time for any travellers who refuse to quarantine for two weeks upon returning to Canada.

The province declared a state of emergency from the COVID-19 pandemic on March 18. The last time the province entered this state was back in 2017 during the wildfire season.


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