The B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced this morning that the government is enacting extraordinary powers under a state of provincial emergency in response to novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
“We are at a critical stage in our fight against COVID-19,” said Farnworth. “How we act today will determine our future.”
He added that while most people are following the orders of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, municipal bylaw officers will now be enabled to enforce Dr. Henry’s orders for non-essential businesses to close and a ban on gatherings of 50-plus people. Fines of more than $25,000 or jail time can be levied for violations.
The province has compiled a list of essential services and businesses.
Other orders include:
• Supply chain: Establishing a new Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit to co-ordinate goods and services distribution; taking a more active role in co-ordinating 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.
• 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.
Farnworth declared a provincial state of emergency on March 18, after the provincial health officer declared a public health emergency on March 17. The Province previously declared states of emergency in 1998, 2003, 2017 and 2018 — all related to wildfires. In each of those previous declarations, necessary actions were able to be taken without issuing minister’s orders under the Emergency Program Act.
A summary of all provincial programs related to COVID-19 is online.