Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart announced today (March 18) that he is preparing to declare a state of emergency due to COVID-19.
The declaration is not in effect yet, but he is calling for a special, virtual Vancouver city council meeting tomorrow (March 19) at 10 a.m., and it will take effect immediately once council votes on it.
He explained today at a press briefing that the declaration will allow the city to implement emergency powers, such as closing all public businesses to assembly services, and to monitor the situation in groceries stores and pharmacies to ensure no one is buying more than they need.
The mayor said there is no food or supply shortage, but there is a serious problem with people hoarding and over-buying. He emphasized if residents don’t immediately change their behaviour, he will work with local retailers and take action.
"These are extraordinary times, and we need to take fast and extraordinary action. Following the best advice from health officials and Fire Chief Darrell Reid, I have decided we need to declare a state of emergency in Vancouver," said Stewart. "This declaration will help us move faster to keep residents safe, and give emergency-management teams and first responders more flexibility to deploy resources and enforce orders."
He is once again urging residents to stay home as much as they can, and limit their time in public spaces. For those who need to leave home to get essentials, they should keep a safe distance of one to two metres from one another.
“To business owners, unless you can operate takeout and delivery services, now is the time to close to the public,” said Stewart. “The public health officer has ordered bars and restaurants to close, and that’s what we’re following. We are looking for more information from the province in their own press conference this afternoon.”
But the mayor stressed that these businesses can operate for takeout and delivery if they can maintain a safe social distance from customers.
The City of Vancouver has joined with Vancouver Coastal Health and B.C. Housing on a multi-agency public partner task force to identify and implement measures to protect those who are experiencing homelessness, living in SROs, and living in the Downtown Eastside.
They will work to secure additional locations for those who are homeless but need to self-isolate, as well as basic-needs issues like food security and access to medication and safe supply.
“We recognize that this is a difficult and uncertain time for all of Vancouver. Rest assured our teams are working to maintain essential services all while taking steps to combat COVID-19. Each and every one of us has a role to play right now and our staff are stepping up to ensure that we can keep Vancouver running, despite the closures and service impacts,” city manager Sadhu Johnston said in a press statement.
“There may be further closures in the days and weeks to come as we focus on those essential services and protecting all members of our community, including those experiencing homelessness,” added Johnston.
Several public services in the city remain closed, including all Vancouver park board, public library, and civic theatre sites.