COVID-19: "This is not a drill"—B.C. government uses emergency powers to stop hoarding, goods resale, and more

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      The provincial government is taking what it is calling “unprecedented steps” to address hoarding, resale of goods, social distancing, and more during the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Today (March 26), B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced a list of measures invoked for the first time with provincial state of emergency powers to ensure the maintenance of essential goods and services and the safety of British Columbians.

      To protect consumers, the government is banning the secondary resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and other essential supplies. Anyone who ignores this ban can face a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment of up to a year, or both.

      Municipal bylaw officers will be enabled to enforce provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s orders for business closures and gatherings, including social distancing. Those who ignore the orders can be fined up to $25,000 or be jailed.

      "This is not a drill—it's a pandemic," Premier John Horgan stated at a news conference at the B.C. legislature in Victoria. "We need to follow the orders of Dr. Bonnie Henry and the public health officers. They're not suggestions or good advice—they're the law."

      Any business or service that hasn’t been ordered to close and isn’t identified on the essential service list may remain open if it can adapt to Dr. Henry’s orders and recommendations for services and workplaces.

      All passenger and car-ferry services will provide minimum service levels and priority access for residents, essential goods, and workers.

      With the exception of the City of Vancouver, B.C. is suspending local states of emergency to give municipal councils the ability to hold more flexible meetings for faster decision-making and coordinating use of local publicly owned facilities, such as community centres for self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing, and distribution.

      A new provincial supply chain coordination unit will coordinate the distribution of foods and services and suspend any bylaws restricting delivery of goods at any time of day. The quantities of items purchased will also be restricted at points of sales. Critical services for vulnerable populations, such as food banks and shelters, will also be supported.

      “Today’s measures will make sure communities are taking necessary steps, in co-ordination with the province, to get ready should more action be required to combat COVID-19,” Farnworth stated in a news release.

      Dr. Henry declared a public health emergency on March 17 and B.C. declared a provincial state of emergency on March 18. The City of Vancouver officially declared a state of emergency on March 19.

      Previous provincial states of emergency were declared in 1998, 2003, 2017, and 2018 for wildfires.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook