B.C. declares provincial state of emergency due to COVID-19

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      While the City of Vancouver declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth declared a provincial state of emergency today (March 18).

      The declaration is based on recommendations of B.C. emergency management and health officials and following provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s declaration of a provincial health emergency yesterday (March 17), Farnworth explained that this declaration will ensure federal, provincial, and local resources are coordinated, calling it an “all hands on deck approach”.

      Under the Public Emergency Act, today’s declaration has additional powers, such using means to secure critical supply chains, maintaining public access to essential goods and services, and ensuring infrastructure is available.

      “We are working with partners across government and industry to co-ordinate emergency response efforts, and we won’t hesitate to use the tools available to us to keep people safe,” Farnworth stated.

      The state of emergency is in effect for 14 days, and may be rescinded or extended as needed. 

      As house leader, Farnworth is working to resume the legislature to complete urgent government business to speed up the response to COVID-19 and key decisions need to be in coming days to give relief to people and businesses in province.

      Farnworth stated that the legislature will resume on Monday (March 23) with reduced numbers and minimal staff to pass important legislation that will ensure the continuity of government and provide employment support to B.C. citizens.

      Farnworth asked everyone to abide by health official recommendations, including social distancing, remaining at home, and more.

      When asked about hoarding issues, Farnworth stated that they are working with the retail council at provincial and federal level, and today’s emergency declaration will give the province the powers to back up the work being done by the retail council.

      “Our supply chains are in good shape,” he said. “People need to use common sense.

      When asked if retired doctors or former medical officials will be forced to be brought back under the emergency powers, Farnworth stated that the declaration does give broad and sweeping powers to direct resources, whether human or other, to deal with state of emergency.

      However, he said that as they are already seeing retired health professionals with applicable skills stepping up and coming forward voluntarily, he doesn’t believe will have to force people to do what is the right thing to do.

      Previous declarations provincial state of emergencies were declared for wildfires in 2017 and 2018.

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